“May you live in interesting times.” Whoever coined that old Chinese curse is smiling upon us right now as the country and the world braces itself for the Trump presidency.
Before I get to this article’s main point, here’s a suggestion: Don’t judge or hate those who voted for Donald Trump (or Hillary Clinton). The world has enough fear and anger already. People can be hard to fathom, a lot of folks are struggling. Let’s understand and help each other, not turn against our brothers and sisters while the rich get richer and the rest of us get poorer.
Russell Brand tells it like it is. Watching this is worth your time:
Don’t blame our problems on Donald Trump either. Trump isn’t responsible for the following (though he may make them worse):
• The government is too bloated and complex to address people’s problems
• US debt is enormous and growing, currently $14.3 trillion, equal to the national GDP of the previous 10 months
• The US houses 22% of the world’s prisoners, despite having 4.4% of the world’s population
• For centuries, ethnic minorities have been systematically targeted and oppressed
• Corporations have massive power in the US with enormous destructive potential
• Centralized federal lending policies and urban design regulations have created one of the world’s most inhumane and unsustainable built environments
• The US has long cast a shadow of fear and conflict across the globe
Corporate power, inequality, militarism, and government malfeasance, problems that exist in all sized nations, become massive, unsolvable issues in large countries. This was true under all previous presidents, no matter how benevolent or demagogic, and it will be true under all future presidents. Size transcends personalities.
But what if what is now the US were instead a more harmless and governable patchwork of smaller countries? Look underneath the map and already is, at least in part. In “American Nations” (2011) Colin Woodard posits that the US is not one homogeneous country but eleven cultural regions that have nothing to do with state or national borders. These regions were founded by groups of people with starkly different ideas about how society should work and be governed.
Although these regions were founded between the 1500s and 1900s and have since seen multiple waves of immigration, the new arrivals have ended up being absorbed into the original regional (mainly non-indigenous) cultures, which have survived to this day…
A brief description of The Nations of America (click to open)
- El Norte: Founded by the Spanish and the oldest of the American Nations, El Norte is home to a self-reliant culture both north and south of the US-Mexican border.
- Yankeedom: Established by radical Calvinists as a religious utopia with an emphasis on education, local political control, and the greater good. Locked in ongoing tension with the Deep South.
- New Netherland: Founded by the Dutch and situated in what is now Greater New York City, New Netherland introduced to the future US tolerance of diversity and freedom of inquiry.
- The Midlands: Started by English Quakers and organized around the middle class, the Midlands features a prevailing moderate political opinion where government is seen as an unwelcome presence. A key swing vote region.
- Tidewater: Fundamentally conservative with more emphasis on respect for tradition and authority and less on equality and public participation in politics, Tidewater introduced the Electoral College and the Senate to the US political system.
- Greater Appalachia: Founded by waves of bellicose settlers from the warring borders between England, Scotland, and Ireland. Greater Appalachia features a warrior mentality and emphasis on individual liberty. People here are wary of both social reformers and aristocrats.
- The Deep South: Established by British slave lords from Barbados, the Deep South is still the least democratic of the American Nations.
- New France: Settled by progressive French immigrants, New France is still liberal and multicultural today.
- The Left Coast: Combines New England ideals and intellectualism with individual exploration and self-fulfillment.
- The Far West: A resource colony for the rest of the US which resists federal regulation while relying on government assistance.
- First Nation: This area is dominated by Native Americans who never surrendered their lands and are steadily gaining sovereignty.
Most Americans I’ve spoken to have been pleased to hear about the American Nations. They’re relieved to know that under this country’s massive bulk are smaller, safer, and more harmonious nations. What if these nations could actually control their own destinies?
Many people are indeed starting to connect the size of the US to its problems. Enter the Calexit (California independence) and Texit (Texas independence) movements, spearheaded respectively by Yes California and the Texas Nationalist Movement (TNM), both peaceful organizations pushing for independence. The TNM has been growing steadily for a couple of decades, Trump’s election has seen Yes California explode in size. Time will tell if either movement become serious forces of change, joining other independence movements, such as Catalonia’s and Scotland’s, flourishing around the world.
To many Americans the idea of smaller countries emerging out of the current USA might seem ridiculous, impractical, dangerous, and even treasonous. Even though the data suggest that on average smaller countries generally have higher per capita GDP, happier citizens, and fight fewer wars the biggest challenge is perhaps psychological: How can people raised their whole lives to identify as Americans suddenly accept a whole new paradigm? It will be a challenge.
A lot of questions – about national security, the economy, the legality of self-determination, and more – need answering. Here’s my advice: Start with Yes California’s short online Blue Book which addresses many questions about independence. Then read economist Leopold Kohr’s classic book “The Breakdown of Nations”. Kohr not only argues, with concrete logic and wit, for small nations but also suggests that size is the one and only problem permeating all creation!
Do I think it’s actually possible for California or Texas or another state to become an independent country? Even by the most optimistic prediction it would be extremely difficult. But if something is right it should be pushed for, no matter what the odds. And ultimately if a union is unsustainable then, by organization or fate, it will crumble as all unions have at some point. A managed dissolution – perhaps into something more resembling Europe with its moderately-sized independent countries with coordinated trade policies under the European Union – is better than a chaotic one. In fact, it’s already started. In recent statements from Californian representatives committing to defend local values and achievements from federal attacks we’re already seeing a new move to political re-localization.
If this presidential election has shown one thing it’s this: Different regions of the US fundamentally (and perhaps eternally) disagree on how the world should be run. Why not let those regions run themselves the way they’d like to? Perhaps it’s time to jettison the past of the massive and find solutions in the future of the small.
“I believe in the virtue of small nations. I believe in the virtue of small numbers.
The world will be saved by the few.”
André Gide (1869-1951), French author and Nobel Prize winner