If you live in the Northeast as I do, have you looked at the projected 2012 electoral map lately? See that blue lake of color spread across ten states? That’s our bubble. At a time when the left/right, Republican/Dem divide has never been deeper, maybe it’s time for us to declare a stalemate, surrender the dialogue, and retreat to our respective bubbles.
Perhaps the best tactic up here in the blue zone would be to revisit the demands of the New England Federalists in 1814. It was then, in Hartford, Connecticut, in the midst of the punishing War of 1812, that seafaring New Englanders proposed secession in a desperate protest against the devastating economic blowback from the conflict with the British.
Those angry New Englanders were following a well-worn path. History is littered with ethnic and linguistic groups, political purists, or downright angry, xenophobic mobs who, fed up with negotiating the jostle and political compromises of diversity, preferred to retreat into the warm embrace of similarity. It’s called secession.
If you’re having a problem imagining what the secessionist impulse is all about, think the Confederacy, Texans, the Tea Party, the Basques, the Quebecois, the Kurds of northern Iraq, the Palestinians.
You might be surprised to learn where in the world a new tribe is proposing to break away. This time it’s northern Italians shouting “basta!” Extremist members of the Lega Nord, a confederation of eight regions in northern Italy, are expressing the frustration of many of their compatriots—the Milanese and the Venetians among them—who live and work in the most industrialized and prosperous areas of Italy. They’re saying in no uncertain terms that they’re fed up with shouldering the financial burden for the more impoverished southern regions. What the most vocal amongst them want is the whole cheese: secession and creation of an autonomous state to be named Padania.
The Italians may be choosing the right path. If they’re frustrated enough to talk about ripping apart the boot, why not us? We northeasterners could just pick up where the New England Federalists left off in 1814.
So what say you, New York, Maine, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, Maryland, Delaware, New Jersey, and D.C.? Beep your Prius horns if you want to have a go at it. Let’s stop beating our heads against the ideological divide and stop duking out the culture wars. Let’s go it alone. Let’s abandon the industrial ruins of the Midwest and midwesterners’ indecisive shuffling from blue to red and back again, leave the gun-crazy Southwest to conceal-carry till their pants fall down, and simply pretend that we’ll never again fly south for the winter and bask in snoozy sunlight below the Mason-Dixon.
(Note to the “live free or die” state: Folks, you’re going to have to get your act together and stop waffling between blue and red if you want to play in our game.)
And for those who walk the red line but live in the blue, we’ll respectfully acknowledge that you live somewhat peacefully among us. Many of you are our neighbors. Still, when our new blue union is created, why not take Mitt Romney’s advice and self-deport to more congenial climes? You’ll find a lot of folks in the red who will welcome you with open arms.
Once we’ve seceded, we’ll even negotiate treaties with those of you whom we’ve left behind . First, we’ll start by agreeing to disagree. Then, we’ll promise to stop trying to push our views on you, if you’ll promise to stop trying to push yours on us. How great would it be to not have to negotiate with us teary-eyed knee-jerkers with our annoying talk of economic fairness, concern for the middle class and impoverished, and the clouded future of the planet? What a sense of liberation you’ll have when you can pursue, with no pushback, your own fun and fanciful reddish ways.
So go ahead and teach your teen-agers abstinence only, and outlaw birth control and abortion. Go all the way and mandate that doctors medically probe into pregnant women’s vaginas without their consent. Throw away that stuffy, useless scientific method and teach your children that the world’s three thousand years old. While you’re at it, drag your kids out of college.
Build your stockpiles of new nukes. Gobble up your super-sized, unlabeled GMO foodstuffs. Bust your unions and fire your teachers, cops, and firefighters. Let loose and let your impoverished live on the streets. Criminalize the Mexican farm workers, housekeepers, gardeners, and sitters you depend on. (And why stop there? For a bit of Saturday afternoon fun, why not get together after the game and fill out the forms to deport their American-born children and finally kill their dreams once and for all?)
Let your sick get sicker for lack of insurance and access to doctors’ care. Shout “drill, baby, drill” till your voices crack. Pollute your air, water, and land. Frack to your heart’s content.
But, please, just leave us alone in our bright blue bubble. All we want here is the chance to at last say to you (as the Padanians hope someday to say to their southern neighbors), “Arrivederci!”
Renee Shur lives and works in New York’s Hudson Valley.