Wednesday, April 15, 2009

National devolution, in progress (aka, liberty's natural manure)

Walking home from work in downtown Austin this evening, I saw a variety of Austinites heading north from a libertarian protest on the shores of "Lady Bird Lake." Plenty of white male curmudgeons, a notable share of body art laden-bohos, and even my son's earnest and kind orthodontist. When prosperous suburban orthodontists want to revolt, one can reasonably wonder whether some fundamental fabric in the nation has been torn. The report from our less weird neighbors in Dallas:

Perry fires up anti-tax crowd
Dallas Morning News

By KELLEY SHANNON / Associated Press

Texas Gov. Rick Perry fired up an anti-tax "tea party" Wednesday with his stance against the federal government and for states' rights as some in his U.S. flag-waving audience shouted, "Secede!"

An animated Perry told the crowd at Austin City Hall — one of three tea parties he was attending across the state — that officials in Washington have abandoned the country's founding principles of limited government. He said the federal government is strangling Americans with taxation, spending and debt.


Perry called his supporters patriots. Later, answering news reporters' questions, Perry suggested Texans might at some point get so fed up they would want to secede from the union, though he said he sees no reason why Texas should do that.

"There's a lot of different scenarios," Perry said. "We've got a great union. There's absolutely no reason to dissolve it. But if Washington continues to thumb their nose at the American people, you know, who knows what might come out of that. But Texas is a very unique place, and we're a pretty independent lot to boot."

He said when Texas entered the union in 1845 it was with the understanding it could pull out. However, according to the Texas State Library and Archives Commission, Texas negotiated the power to divide into four additional states at some point if it wanted to but not the right to secede.

Texas did secede in 1861, but the North's victory in the Civil War put an end to that.


After praising veterans in the cheering crowd Wednesday, he said: "I'm just not real sure you're a bunch of right-wing extremists. But if you are, we're with you."

Perry said he believes he could be at the center of a national movement that is coordinated and focused in its opposition to the actions of the federal government.

"It's a very organic thing," he said. "It is a very powerful moment, I think, in American history."

To understand this, you have to recognize that Texas has a stronger national identity than the union of which it is a member. The entire social studies curriculum from early elementary school through middle school, whether in private or public school, is devoted to Texas history. Some teachers, like my son's, use this curricular mandate as an opportunity for a socialist critical approach to Texas as a Latin American studies laboratory. But even when subverted like that, it's still all about Texas, the only state I have lived in that has its own indigenous forms of national dress, music, literature, and cuisine. The sign of the National Guard base visible from one of our main freeways reads "HEADQUARTERS — TEXAS MILITARY FORCES." And while one may have an intuitive averse reaction to the right wing nutjob factor in all this, when you see the over-tattooed members of an imaginary Warren Ellis underground and the post-Willie stoner cowboys in the mix, you are reminded that there is a wonderful idea of almost anarchic freedom running through it. I can't stand Governor Rick Perry, but I love revolutionary orthodontists, even when their main bitch is having to pay Uncle Sam too much of their personal profits from straightening American teen smiles.

Many of these folks no doubt are listeners to "Radio Free Austin," the almost-pirate micro-FM that broadcasts from relay transmitters located in populist backyards all over town, sometimes with freeway-facing improvised billboards, carrying the paranoid rants of homegrown conspiracy theorist Alex Jones, a kind of GWOT-era Bill Hicks crossed with Network's "mad as hell" broadcaster Howard Beale. (See. e.g., the post on Jones' Infowars site tonight attacking Perry's "cynical effort to exploit the tea party movement and states' rights.")

Particularly interesting to me is this mass popular resurgence of the idea of the right of revolt, expressed in Texas (the only state that was an independent nation) as the right to secede from the national union. As previously noted here, the highest courts in the land have recently cited this extra-Constitutional, natural law (Declaration of Independence) right of revolt as the political theoretical underpinning of the Second Amendment right to bear arms. What would John Roberts do if someone actually tried to rely on that purported right to take arms against the government? As a federal Constitutional mater, the right of secession is unfounded — Texas purportedly has, at most, the right to subdivide into four or five states and thereby increase its federal representative power. But if the legislature passed a resolution asserting such a right, citing some more theoretical source of law, how would it play out? Could the Obama:Lincoln analogies be tested more precisely than anyone imagined? Could Indian-American Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal be the 21st century Jefferson Davis? Gone with the Wind remade real-time in consensus reality as a Sterlingian Bollywood song and dance dystopia?

Lots of intriguing science fictional scenarios. I mean, if the Ukrainians are free to do it, why aren't we? And if the crazy ass Texas government and people actually asserted their putative right to secede, what the hell would happen? You know, other than the fact that all the other states that endured eight years of postmodern W. Texana would say good riddance. Maybe we can all get in Howard Waldrop's truck and invade Oklahoma or something. Or ally with Chihuahua and Nuevo Leon and start our own guns and drugs and live music libertarian narco-paradise. ¡Viva!


jesswynne said...

I'd have to leave; I'd rather live in Obamastan. Plus, I like infrastructure and being able to care for those who can't care for themselves.

Christopher Brown said...

Hah! You are so old-fashioned and communitarian, it warms the heart. In the Free Republic, there will be no need for health care, because it will be so violent and gun-plagued that the average lifespan will halve.

jesswynne said...

Well, that's handy.

Jayme Lynn Blaschke said...

Secession would never work. The Northern Aggressors would simply hire the Israeli army to put down the rebellion...

Dave Hardy said...

I say we emulate the original Texians. Fist, find a lightly guarded, underdeveloped neighboring province. Part B, Infiltrate a substantial number of heavily-armed land speculators. Then we make our move... Blammo! Lone Star State II, or is that Dual Star State I?

Anyway, it's Sam Houston w/ pot brownies. Any takers on Col. Travis?

Christopher Brown said...

Sounds like the Mirabeau Lamar plan: invade New Mexico. Maybe just the southern half, which has like no people but very large quantities of federal military hardware. Bargain with the local brass to come over. Indeed, that's the tricky part of the whole Alex Jones secession scenario: what do they do about all the American troops already stationed in Texas?

Bruce Farrar said...

I enjoyed your post tremendously, but in the interest of accuracy I must point out that the parenthetical statement referring to Texas as "(the only state that was an independent nation)" is not true. The Republic of Vermont existed for fourteen years from January 15, 1777, when it declared independence from the English crown until March 4, 1791 when it joined the United States as the fourteenth state.

Christopher Brown said...

Bruce -

That is awesome about the Republic of Vermont. I have never heard that, how amazing, and I see there's even a secessionist movement still alive up there: