Endorsing Cascadia secession

Note: This is the fourth and last in a series of blog postings emanating from work originally compiled for a Daily Bullshit entry.

Today, in faux-liberal Sebastopol, I noticed a bumper sticker. It was the only bumper sticker on the pickup truck, but it read, “I don’t believe the liberal news.”

Authoritarian populist, I thought to myself, probably. But it’s also a reminder that the opponents I wrote about in my last blog entry[1] are never very far away. Indeed, California’s own version of the Bible Belt occupies much of the Central Valley, just a couple counties east from here. It’s one of a few things that makes the break-up of the country along ideological lines, as I have repeatedly called for,[2] harder to imagine and notions such as Calexit or the bioregion approach of Cascadia, which all but ignore ideology, more reasonable.

Of course, sitting at the (vegetarian ecofeminist) intersection of veganism, animal liberation, and anarchism, my preference would be for no political or economic power over living beings at all. This would erase borders entirely, which I would see as a boon for human and animal rights. But I judge this even less likely than the breakup of the U.S., so I’m in a bit of a dilemma in choosing to support efforts such as Cascadia. (The Calexit movement is pursuing an explicitly political approach to advancing California independence, which because I reject participation in the U.S. political system,[3] is something I feel I cannot participate in.) Do I advocate lesser measures that at least lead toward decentralization of power in the hopes that they would help to ameliorate some of the evils of concentrated power? Or, recognizing the probable futility of either choice, do I hold out for my preferred system of social organization?

Call it a first world radical problem. And one I’ll be wrestling with for a while.

But then I’m reminded:

[Keith] Mines has spent his career—in the U.S. Army Special Forces, the United Nations, and now the State Department—navigating civil wars in other countries, including Afghanistan, Colombia, El Salvador, Iraq, Somalia, and Sudan. He returned to Washington after sixteen years to find conditions that he had seen nurture conflict abroad now visible at home. It haunts him. In March, Mines was one of several national-security experts whom Foreign Policy asked to evaluate the risks of a second civil war—with percentages. Mines concluded that the United States faces a sixty-per-cent chance of civil war over the next ten to fifteen years. Other experts’ predictions ranged from five per cent to ninety-five per cent. The sobering consensus was thirty-five per cent. And that was five months before Charlottesville.[4]

Notice that there’s no methodology offered here for how that “sobering consensus” of “thirty-five percent” was arrived at and I’m skeptical that a valid methodology for arriving at this number exists, so I’m inclined to discount it. But the sixty percent chance and the ninety-five percent forecasts suggest to me that while there’s little assurance of success, there’s a significant possibility of at least an attempt.

Which maybe I should support. After all, Mines is quite right to cite, in Robin Wright’s paraphrase,

five conditions that support his prediction: entrenched national polarization, with no obvious meeting place for resolution; increasingly divisive press coverage and information flows; weakened institutions, notably Congress and the judiciary; a sellout or abandonment of responsibility by political leadership; and the legitimization of violence as the “in” way to either conduct discourse or solve disputes.[5]

So maybe I’ll put that Cascadia flag sticker on my car after all. (I live in the Russian River watershed, at what appears to be the southernmost extent of the Cascadia bioregion.)

But it all remains terribly unlikely. First, the suggestion that events in Charlottesville[6] might signify a budding “new” civil war (assuming contrary to Ta-Nehisi Coates[7] that the first one ever ended) seems to rest on a notion that somehow this outrage is new or different. If so, I don’t see how. It’s hardly the first or even remotely the worst paleoconservative terrorist attack, racist atrocities have a long history in this country, and as Eric Foner pointed out in Wright’s article, “We have strong gravitational forces that counteract what we’re seeing today.”[8]

Still, a guy can hope. It wouldn’t be my ideal. If the liberal territory I live in were to secede, I could hope for progress on environmental, social, and economic issues rather than the regress that has characterized my lifetime. And I think that when the ideology I happen to prefer isn’t imposed on my opponents by force, they might come around as theirs fails all the more spectacularly with actual implementation.

  1. [1]David Benfell, “The Left may be about to claim a Pyrrhic victory,” Not Housebroken, August 20, 2017, https://disunitedstates.org/2017/08/20/the-left-may-be-about-to-claim-a-pyrrhic-victory/
  2. [2]David Benfell, “A divorce for the United States,” Not Housebroken, December 14, 2009, https://disunitedstates.org/2009/12/14/a-divorce-for-the-united-states/; David Benfell, “‘Progress’ and the Union,” Not Housebroken, December 24, 2012, https://disunitedstates.org/2009/12/14/a-divorce-for-the-united-states/; David Benfell, “The Left may be about to claim a Pyrrhic victory,” Not Housebroken, August 20, 2017, https://disunitedstates.org/2017/08/20/the-left-may-be-about-to-claim-a-pyrrhic-victory/
  3. [3]David Benfell, “Why I do not vote,” Not Housebroken, February 25, 2016, https://disunitedstates.org/2016/02/23/why-i-do-not-vote/
  4. [4]Robin Wright, “Is America Headed for a New Kind of Civil War?” New Yorker, August 14, 2017, https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/is-america-headed-for-a-new-kind-of-civil-war
  5. [5]Robin Wright, “Is America Headed for a New Kind of Civil War?” New Yorker, August 14, 2017, https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/is-america-headed-for-a-new-kind-of-civil-war
  6. [6]Joe Heim, “Recounting a day of rage, hate, violence and death,” Washington Post, August 14, 2017, https://www.washingtonpost.com/graphics/2017/local/charlottesville-timeline/Robin Wright, “Is America Headed for a New Kind of Civil War?” New Yorker, August 14, 2017, https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/is-america-headed-for-a-new-kind-of-civil-war
  7. [7]Ta-Nehisi Coates, “The Lost Cause Rides Again,” Atlantic, August 4, 2017, https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2017/08/no-confederate/535512/
  8. [8]Eric Foner, quoted in Robin Wright, “Is America Headed for a New Kind of Civil War?” New Yorker, August 14, 2017, https://www.newyorker.com/news/news-desk/is-america-headed-for-a-new-kind-of-civil-war

Author: benfell

David Benfell holds a Ph.D. in Human Science from Saybrook University. He earned a M.A. in Speech Communication from CSU East Bay in 2009 and has studied at California Institute of Integral Studies. He is an anarchist, a vegetarian ecofeminist, a naturist, and a Taoist.

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