What do history's most notorious despots have in common with many of the flag-waving, patriotic politicians of our day? Both groups rise to power through the exploitation of fear, which has become a societal plague. There have been widespread casualties. We need an antidote. Feardom offers its readers a much-needed immunization.
photo credit: Stuck in Customs
Abraham Lincoln is revered in most historical accounts—most notably those in public school textbooks—as the savior of the Union. Quelling southern rebellion, he prevented a deepening division amongst countrymen and ultimately was able to hold the country together. What his fans and followers fail to realize, though, is that Lincoln’s actions resulted not only in an eventual abolition of slavery, but also a complete abolition of the voluntary association that had, up until that point, defined the union of sovereign states.
Under Lincoln’s war campaign, the voluntary, federal union of states saw its relationship drastically change to a national, central relationship. Sovereignty gave way to subservience. Since that time, the identity of being American has, in most cases (Texas, being one of the notable exceptions), far surpassed the identity that anybody cherishes with their home state.
In this national relationship, those who entertain notions of seceding are labeled as traitors. The general attitude towards this scenario might possibly be represented by a statement by Steve Benen in Washington Monthly who, referring to Sarah Palin’s affiliation with the Alaska Independent Party, said:
Advocating secession is, practically by definition, un-American.
It should be noted that there wouldn’t even be an “America” had the colonists not seceded from the British empire. To argue, then, that secession should in all cases be treated as treason only lends credence to the assessment that there no longer exists any voluntary union of participating states.
A union of states under which participants may not at any time leave is in fact not a union, but a forced syndicate of subservient states. Sovereignty—the ability to choose your own future—requires the ability to self-determine and choose with whom you will (and will not) affiliate. The threat of secession serves as a restraint on the union itself, thus ensuring that the majority agree on every action taken. Using the threat (and action) of force to mandate participation opens the way for inappropriate action on the part of the union, since the chances of people quitting in frustration are non-existent.
What this country needs is not a dominant, authoritarian government coercing the states into a false union, but a federation of states that allows for the proper restraint upon its actions so as to ensure the ongoing voluntary participation of those who desire to be involved.