Evidence of the polarizing effect of the current presidential administration is everywhere. From the border crisis to Obamacare and Hobby Lobby, extreme views from both sides of the aisle have the average American caught in an ideological crossfire of both misinformation and disinformation. Evidence of the President’s overreach can be found in the Supreme Court’s ruling against him in twelve straight rebukes of his executive orders.
While the American public continues to be distracted by zealots pushing these wedge issues, there are those among us who are stepping forward to push another issue. One that could, if successful, restore fair and equal representation in our government: secession.
I know, I know. “Isn’t that what started the Civil War?” I’ve been asked. One could argue that yes, secession was a significant component of the conflict. In fact, since “secession” and “civil war” are not synonymous terms, some prefer the labels “War of Northern Aggression” and “War Between the States” to the typical characterization of “civil war.” Another important and closely related aspect of the strife was states’ rights versus federal government overreach. Today, we can all perceive slavery as the atrocity it is, but that was just one of many issues leading up to the Confederacy.
I do not want us to get distracted from the current movement by comparing it to the wrongs and rights of the past. The current movement, re-branded as “partitioning” is different in that it is taking place in non-contiguous states, 10 states according to Listasaur.com. There are movements in Arizona, Washington, Florida, Michigan and Wisconsin (joint territory), Kansas, Vermont, California, and various parts of New York. Of course, the Republic of Texas remains the poster child of secession amidst long-standing threats from many groups in the state to leave the Union.
Many politicians and media ideologues attribute these movements to people’s unwillingness to change with the times or, according to Jeff Schweitzer of the Huffington Post: racism. Secession is not unheard of in our history. Since the adoption of the United States Constitution (the Declaration of Independence announcing the Colonists’ secession from Britain), four states have been created by cleaving from other states. Those are Maine (from Massachusetts), West Virginia (from Virginia), Vermont (from both New York and New Hampshire), and, finally, Kentucky (also from Virginia).
What’s more, secession is referenced obliquely by Article IV, Section 3 of the US Constitution:
“New States may be admitted by the congress into this union, but no new State shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the junction of two or more States, or Parts of States, without the consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as Congress.”
I won’t speak for those residing in states other than New York, as I am a New Yorker and have ties to three areas in the state. I was born and raised in Brooklyn, currently live in the Hudson Valley region, and own a home, to which I may very well retire, in the Adirondack Mountains. In my humble opinion I am qualified to opine about the various and often identical reasons why New Yorkers want to sever the ties that bind; and will do so to a small extent here, as there are sufficient justifications (according to proponents of the division) to fill volumes.
New York City believes that the current separatist movement is about tax revenue and lopsided tax contribution. Some legislators, as well as former mayor Michael Bloomberg, assert that the city pays more into the system than it receives in services. Ironically, the sentiment is matched in the northern and western parts of the state. For example, I have spoken with many business owners in the Adirondack Region who claim that there are 561,000 welfare recipients in the state, of which 61% (343,000) live in the 5 boroughs of New York City. The absolute numbers fluctuate, but that percentage, 61, remains fairly constant.
All versions of the partitioning movement can agree on one rule: self-determination. Each area in question has decidedly different political leanings. New York City mostly leans left-of-center to far-left, while Long Island, Northern New York, and Northwestern New York generally slant right.
Mayor Bloomberg has been caught stating that conservatives from Upstate shouldn’t have a say in the dealings of New York City. But what he failed to mention is that the New York Assembly has a considerable majority of Democrats and that the Senate, consisting of 63 members, no fewer than 24 representing City districts. This leaves the remainder of the state represented by only a slight majority, which is not entirely Republican or conservative. Numbers do not lie . . . we who reside outside of the City do not have equal representation.
What non-New Yorkers may never realize is that New York City, as populous as it, only occupies 468.9 square miles (.0086%) of the 54,556 square miles that make up the state. When it comes to self-determination, residents of the City exert a real influence on what happens hundreds of miles from their homes. They have, in my experience, far too much say in my lifestyle and that of my neighbors. Lifestyles they know nothing about. We have large gardens, small farm animals, hunt for meat as recreation, and proudly own firearms, just to name a few of our differences from big city folk.
We do not have bodegas (small convenience stores) on nearly every street corner, emergency help is often more than 15 minutes away, and though some of us may own large swaths of property, we are not wealthy. Given those differences, why should a person renting an apartment in Brooklyn have an equal say in the life of someone Upstate, a life they may never understand. Conversely, why should someone Upstate have a say in an apartment dweller’s?
My current home is an hour-and-a-half away from where I grew up in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. My Adirondack retirement property is three hours from my current home in Orange County. Each area is as different from the other as the moon is different from the sun. I understand life in each region and so I can see and agree with many of the reasons for secession from the City. Self-determination is a primary impetus for the separation and one of the principles that make our nation such a wonderful place. We have the God-given right to make our way in this world, and many of us could do just that if only government overreach and narrow-minded diversionists would get out of our way.
I don’t think that secession is in the cards. The powers that be have too great a stake in suppressing our right to govern ourselves to allow that to happen. By keeping us at odds, they can continue to control us through a web of lies, misinformation, and wedge issues. But I’ll tell you this: I believe with all my heart that we can beat them, and here’s how. I’ll support your right to live your way if you support my right to live mine. If we each understand that equal rights do not equate to special rights we can unite to the common cause of self-government without having to break up our beautiful state. We can win, if we follow the framework laid out in the US Constitution.