March 4, 2023
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I Want a (National) Divorce Too

by Jonathan Wallace

Marjorie Taylor Greene vastly offended our side this week by Tweeting: “We need a national divorce. We need to separate by red states and blue states and shrink the federal government. From the sick and disgusting woke culture issues shoved down our throats to the Democrat’s traitorous America Last policies, we are done.” The resulting Chatter on the Left has been unending and enraged. However, Greene was only hitting on something I have been thinking about for years. I do not want to be part of the same nation as Greene.

Here's how I get there. It starts, like most of my thought processes, in the ten years or so I was twelve years old. (I had so many ideas, and adventures, that year, that it could not have been a mere single turn of the planet.) Reading about the American Civil War, I wondered how it was possible to force the Confederate states to stay in the Union, then continue pretending that our "democracy" was based on "the consent of the governed". Now I am 68 years old (though still twelve at heart), and I have not yet heard an answer to that question.

For that matter, it is impossible to reconcile the War Between the States with the (in)famous opening words of our Declaration, which proclaims that "in the Course of human events," sometimes "it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them".

The fact that the Official Narrative never even asks this question, which one's elementary school teachers were completely unprepared to answer, is Exemplary of the way our story (like everyone's) is based on some quite sophistical cornerstones.

I have observed elsewhere, and many years ago, that our moral discourse tends, without differentiation, to mix completely unrelated considerations, typically practical and economic, which actually have nothing to do with the underlying ethical assertions. For example, in the death penalty debate, one side may complain it is expensive to execute people, while the other claims it is expensive to warehouse them for a lifetime. But neither of these statements has the least bearing on whether it is right or wrong to kill the killers.Similarly, debate about whether we should have let the South go tends to be entirely concentrated on the vulnerabilities in international affairs of smaller, divided countries sharing the American continent, or the threats of domestic enemies right across one's border. New York and Virginia have not been at war since 1866, and perhaps if New York had not colluded in forcing Virginia back into the same polity, they would have fought three more. But none of these is a moral argument.

On the other hand, I have an amoral practical argument that I think trumps (and Trumps) the above. If we had let the South go, we would have been much better off today. Donald Trump would never have been President of the Northern United States, Amy Barrett would not be serving on its Supreme Court, and Roe v. Wade would not have been reversed. The Confederate states of yesteryear are red states today, and they are having their revenge on the rest of us for making them stay.

A natural question of the consequences of letting the Southern states go is what would have happened to slavery: would it still exist today? There is no sure answer to that question. I would like to hope (but dare not feel certain) that Capitalism would have persuaded or forced the South to relinquish slavery within a few years anyway. However, I am willing to justify the invasion of the South purely as a means to end slavery (I could argue that would have been a just war), but then, upon victory, allowing them their independence (with a warning we would invade again if they resumed enslaving people). In any event, the Founders, drafting the Declaration of Independence, allowed no exception for unhappy subjects being forbidden to withdraw if they were not moral paradigms. In fact, since many of the Framers (George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, etc.) were slave-owners, England could have advanced that same argument against American independence.

To summarize, on a purely moral scale, I do not believe any argument which asserts that once they have consented to join a polity, people cannot ever change their minds. Another one of my formative ideas, embodied in one of the Books That Wrote Me, is Ernst Renan's that democracy is a "daily plebiscite", in other words, that we vote every single day to stay members.

An idea which follows from this one, which I only arrived at in the last ten years, is that the success of most institutions depends on the human members having some sense of belonging to each other, in spite of their radical differences of opinion and exasperation or anger. In England in the nineteenth century, a quite politically radical tailor, Francis Place, who never held elective office, became quite influential in Parliament, without compromising his principles; elected politicians of every political stripe, knowing him for a truthteller, visited his home late at night and sat with Place in his library, consulting him on the day's incidents and their plans. Place was their radical. In the Research by Wandering Around I have conducted for my endless, shapeless Mad Manuscript on the idea of free speech, now 14,000 pages (no shit), I have found many other examples of people who were "our Communist" (as in the French Parliament after World War II, based on the recognition that Communists had been the most courageous Resistance fighters), our Jew (as Spinoza was to many people), our Socialist (as Harold Laski was to Oliver Wendell Holmes). Gandhi's great triumph in life was to become "our crazy Hindu pacifist" to the British he was fighting (they literally reached a point where they could not bear to beat him and his people up any more).

This principle has direct applicability to the day-to-day of our governance. This was my last and greatest epiphany: the First Amendment is only manageable if it applies to people who believe, after all, that they belong together. It thoroughly breaks down as a machine when it is claimed to apply to, protect, speech of hatred, the speech which says, "You are a traitor, you should be killed, I have a right to out you, to dox you, to harass you to silence or suicide". But that is the nation we live in today.

Marjorie Taylor Greene sees me as a traitor, who should be ejected from any control of our polity, if not outright killed. I return the favor by wishing to divorce her: we do not belong to each other, and I do not want to be part of the same nation as her. I would be thrilled to negotiate a permanent separation.

Greene's Tweet contains one clause which makes no sense: ".... and shrink the federal government". No, we would be ending our mutual federal government. Any solution where we "divorce" but remain part of the same polity is an oxymoron. Through that lens, Greene would not be asking for an actual divorce, but simply for the right to abuse us more and disregard us more, while, I assume, continuing to benefit from our tax subsidies. That dog won't hunt.

Oh, and (Lieutenant Columbo style), "Just one more thing." This is an afterthought, and nothing I have already said depends in any way on it, but: Once the red states and blue are completely divorced from one another, there are likely to be some highly interesting consequences. There will be a Brain and Body (and Worker and Taxpayer and Artist) Drain from the red nation, of autonomous women, African Americans, LGBT people and the others whom Greene and her colleagues are trying so hard to bully and oppress. Companies employing the migrants, or trying to sell to them, or who prefer stable environments, will leave as well. What will be left, I predict, will be not only a white nation, but a fairly stupid and violent one, without much capacity for self-government-- or much money. The red states will discover how badly they needed Northern subsidies. And their elected politicians, who have made a career "owning the libs" will discover that they don't really know how to run anything. It will all be like a fascinating science experiment with us as the control: in fifty or a hundred years, we will be thriving, and Greene's cosy little totalitarian state will likely be out of business.