Opponents of Secession Embrace Colonialism in Defense of “Enlightened” Central Governments
The idea of secession for some regions of the United States—sometimes simplistically called “national divorce”—has increasingly been mentioned as a way to deal with the apparent growing divide between what are crudely called “red states” and “blue states.” Polls suggest that perhaps a third of the American population “indicated a ‘willingness to secede'”
Vehement opposition to the idea remains plentiful, however. Among the writers of the pundit class, any number of arguments are used to claim that secession is not desirable or moral, nor even feasible. Many conservatives, for example, rely on the standard conservative jingoism, arguing that secession is unconstitutional and “treasonous.” Conservative nationalists and moralists insist that all US residents have some sort of duty to support a unified state.
Social democratic supporters of the regime often use a different strategy. They insist that secession cannot be tolerated because the people who advocate for secession are racists and fascist barbarians and cannot be trusted with self-government. Here’s a representative example of this line of thinking from MSNBC’s Joy Reid:
Today, roughly half of African Americans still live in the 11 Southern states that comprised the Confederacy, and so if this national divorce happened, they would be trapped in an apartheid hellscape of a new country with zero health care, crappy public schools, barely a right to vote, and a full return to ownership by someone else of their bodies — except this time it wouldn’t just be Black women, it would be all women.
Social democrats aren’t the only ones who embrace this line of thinking, however. This same rhetoric is employed by some libertarians. For example, Zach Weissmueller writes:
In post-divorce America, California would have freer rein to confiscate guns. Florida lawmakers could shrug off the First Amendment and ban “offensive” speech. Cops everywhere wouldn’t need to concern themselves about violating citizens’ constitutional rights.
In both the social-democratic and the libertarian views shown here, the argument is essentially that if any region of the country is allowed to separate from Washington’s control, then the breakaway region will immediately set to work violating human rights. The conclusion we are supposed to draw is that support for secession amounts to support for slavery, guns bans, censorship, and a police state.
The leftists and the libertarians differ in which human rights are put at risk by secession, but in both cases the arguments amount to this: without oversight from the central government, state and local governments in the United States are simply too prone to tyranny and mismanagement. If allowed independent and localized government, those people over there might adopt policies I disagree with. Therefore, they must be subjugated to a central government with policies I prefer.”
We have words for this sort of thinking: imperialism and colonialism. Indeed, the assumption that potential separatists must be forced to submit to more “enlightened” government from the center—for the locals’ own good—is standard colonialist propaganda. It is essentially what European and American imperialists were saying 200 years ago to justify continuation of their respective governments’ efforts as conquerors and imperial metropoles. After all, most people living in the conquered colonial territories had their own ideas about government, culture, and natural rights. Many of these ideas were objectionable to the sensibilities of the elites back in the capital cities such as London, Paris, Moscow, and Washington, DC. Thus, the American regime regarded the Indian tribes as barbarians. The British regime treated the Irish as racial inferiors. The Russian regime sought to
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