In light of certain gubernatorial comments and the aftermath, I was trying to think, what exactly justifies secession? The answer to that is pretty simple, namely sufficient force to be able to do it, but rhetorically or ideally or whatever, when does it become OK to start the conversation on breaking away from the larger country? More frankly, when does whining cross over into the territory of legitimate grievances?
Actually looking at the American Revolution, for example, you’d be hard-pressed to say the British were really all that mean to their American colonies, especially compared to the colonies the British possessed in other parts of the world – or even how the Americans treated their own slaves.
The difference was that once the French were kicked out of North America and hostile Indians pushed over the Appalachians, every demand of restraint or tribute by the British felt like tyranny to Americans who didn’t have any say-so in how they were treated, and, probably more importantly, didn’t need the British for anything anymore. When the Virginia Company was dropping Englishmen into the swamps to die at the hands of mosquitoes, storms and Indians, everyone was a loyal subject and thankful for whatever attention they got.
But once the colonies were essentially self-sufficient, those nagging little things became intolerable in part because there was time to think about them. (“Hey, why do we have to pay for stamps?”) In the same way, a child has to be told when to eat, sleep, bathe, etc., and this is acceptable, but an adult subject to these same things is either a prisoner or considered the equivalent of one.
Tyranny, then, is having to do something you don’t think you have to do. Probably, this is why rural people and the rich as a rule are more politically conservative than their urban-poor counterparts. If you can take care of yourself, you don’t want the government to. If you can’t, you’ll accept personal and economic limitations as a trade for taking care of you. In much of “flyover country” you wouldn’t notice the end of the world had happened except for television. In a city like New York or Los Angeles, millions would die within a week or two without electricity, clean water or fresh shipments of food, so the need for encompassing authority and planning is obviously more welcome.
Let me try to actually get back to rhetorical justification. According to the Declaration of Independence, people have the right to abolish a government and form a new one if (1) the government becomes destructive to people’s inalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, (2) the government acts in this way for a long while in the direction of despotism and (3) this isn’t the consent of the governed because that’s from where the government derives its rights.
That third one is very important because while children may have a good case for supporting secession, few of the rest of us do. We’re represented just fine, but sometimes not enough people agree with our ideas, and we have to wait until our minds or theirs change enough to put us back in the majority.
So if Texas had the military and economic ability to secede and act as its own country, we probably would, using some slogan like “Give us our six cents” since we get 94 cents back for every dollar we pay to the feds.
And also because it sounds better than acknowledging that 18 percent of the state wanting to secede after only four months without a Texan as U.S. president is comically absurd and petulant.