There was an interesting meeting last week in Chattanooga, Tennessee – a meeting of groups hoping to secede from the United States.
Ah, you think. Secessionists. Chattanooga. Must be crazy Confederate apologists looking to re-fight the Civil War (or, if you prefer, the War Between the States, or if that still doesn’t satisfy you, the War of Northern Aggression) or, worse yet, undo any good it might have done to bring the American South into a modern United States – one with silly ideas like racial harmony and equal justice under law.
Well, you’d be half right.
A major player in the Chattanooga meeting was The League of the South, an organization that at best can be described as – retrograde. Note these two points, the first from the “cultural independence” section, the second from the “social independence” section:
The South still reveres the tenets of our historic Christian faith and acknowledges its supremacy over man-made laws and opinions; that our Christian faith provides the surest means of securing the welfare of all mankind; and that our primary allegiance is to the Lord Jesus Christ and His Holy Church. (Italics mine)
Upholds the ontological or spiritual equality of all men before God and the bar of justice, while recognizing and rejoicing in the fact that it has neither been the will of God Almighty nor within the power of human legislation to make any two men mechanically equal. (Italics mine)
What The League of the South hopes for, then, with “Southern Independence” is a theocratic republic where Plessy v. Ferguson is the “right and proper” way for the races to live together under law.
That’s the half you got right.
But that meeting of secessionists in Chattanooga wasn’t only attended by Southerners of the same backward nature as those in the famous Harvard Yard joke:
Q: How many Southerners does it take to change a light bulb? A: Four – one to change the bulb, three to talk about how great the old bulb was….
The Middlebury Institute also sent delegates. Here are the “minimal rights and freedoms of individuals in a sovereign state” as articulated by Middlebury Institute:
MINIMAL RIGHTS AND FREEDOMS OF INDIVIDUALS IN A SOVEREIGN STATE
Life, liberty, security
Equality before the law
Trial before competent tribunal, due process, counsel, appeal
Possess property and not be arbitrarily deprived thereof
Periodic elections with universal adult suffrage
Secession by any coherent unit
Speech, opinion, expression in any media
Peaceable assembly, association
Belief, thought, religion, worship
Movement within any state, and to leave and return
Slavery or servitude
Discrimination on the basis of race, color, sex, religion,
political belief, nationality, property, or birth
Torture or degrading treatment
Arbitrary arrest or detention
Invasion of privacy
Arbitrary deprivation of citizenship
Any action by the state to destroy or deny any of these rights and freedoms (Italics mine)
Clearly, the aims and goals of the Middlebury Institute are light years from those of the League of the South. So why are they meeting together? Is secession that strong and attractive an idea – one that reasonable people actually believe feasible? Interestingly, the Supreme Court may never have ruled definitively on the issue. Perhaps that is an impetus to the behavior of these groups.
For those on the far left like The Middlebury Institute and the Second Vermont Republic that oppose the Iraq War, support civil unions, and seek to free themselves from what they term “federal imperialism,” secession is a way to escape what they perceive as growing “corporatocracy” and pursue more humanistic, peaceful political and social paths. For those on the far right like The League of the South and Christian Exodus, secession would allow them to establish separate political and social states based on their views on race, religion, or both. And so they meet together to strategize and try to increase their support bases because while their particular reasons for secession may be widely different, their ends are the same – independence from what they believe is an increasingly intrusive and meddlesome federal government – a government more inclined to act for the political or economic gain of the governors than in response to the needs and wishes of the governed.
What’s perhaps most chillingly sad about this is that, no matter which side of the political spectrum one leans toward from that amorphous point we call “the center,” one can feel at least a twinge, an inkling of agreement with (or at least interest in) their reasons for seeking to leave the American union. Since we know that often what the fringe begins ends up in some form becoming the middle, that suggests problematic clouds on the horizon for what for now we know as these United States….