Does The Lone Star State want to go it alone?
As you may have noticed, following the recent re-election of Barack Obama, many Americans got a bit upset. Indeed, they were so upset that they did what people do nowadays whenever they are outraged: they went on the Internet and grumbled about it.
But these were no ordinary whinges, oh no. You see the White House has a website called We the People where citizens can fantasize that the government is listening to them by signing petitions that will of course be ignored completely, as is the custom in advanced democracies everywhere. Nevertheless, very soon the site was hosting petitions from people in all fifty states, asking politely if the Federal government would allow them to secede.
Of course, America was founded on an act of secession, so even if these requests are mostly symbolic, the meaning is clear: hundreds of thousands of Americans feel that the government has taken a turn for the tyrannical and (of course) takes in too much tax.
The state with the most signatures for secession was Texas. At the time of writing, over 100,000 had signed, easily clearing the 25,000 threshold that requires an official response from government. By contrast, an important request such as Take action to minimize and protect against the threats of a warming planet has a mere 358 signatures, while the intriguing Transfer funds from the drug war to fund the research and development of the genetic engineering of domestic cat girls has only 332.
Texas is an independent-minded state with a strong identity. In 1836, the proto-Texans fought a war of independence from Mexico and established a free nation that existed for nine years before joining the USA. Nobody living here has ever forgotten this. Indeed this is not even the first time in the six years I’ve been in Texas that the question of secession has come up. In the early days of the Tea Party, Governor Rick Perry mumbled a few words about it on the steps of the state capitol, earning a big whoop from the assembled crowd. Soon afterwards Chuck Norris suggested that he might run for president of an independent Texas. After all, he played a Texas Ranger on TV for many years, and so is eminently qualified to lead us.
Personally, I don’t doubt that Texas would be very successful if it became a country. The state has the 14th largest economy in the world: bigger than Australia’s. But the vast majority of Texans believe that they are better off inside the USA and so the secession movement is extremely weak. I know this because last year I attended a meeting of the Texas Nationalists on the 175th anniversary of Texas independence. Although they claimed to have 250,000 members they could barely scrape together 30 folk to fill a room in a hotel built on the historical grounds of the Alamo itself. They were gentle, peaceful people: every now and then a speaker would look out the window at the old mission house and cry.
Now, given Texas’ reputation as a center of right wing nut-job militias, some readers might find that surprising. Indeed, I know one journalist who makes a living by peddling Scary Texas myths to foreign newspapers. But the truth is, to find good, hardcore militia action you have to travel back to the 1990s, when in the aftermath of the Fed’s disastrous handling of the Ruby Ridge siege (two humans and one dog dead) and the catastrophic failures of the ATF and FBI during the Waco siege (76 men, women and children dead) lots of paranoiacs really did grab their guns and take to the hills. The Republic of Texas independence movement emerged in 1995 but quickly fragmented into three squabbling factions. One of these groups was violent, and held two people hostage at gun point for a week, demanding the release of fellow secessionists who were in jail. But then the Texas Rangers moved in, cracked a few skulls and that was the end of that.
Undaunted, another faction declared Overton (with a population of 2,554) the capital of an independent Texas. Between 2003 and 2005 they merrily issued passports and driver’s licenses to anybody who would pay. But when their HQ burned down in 2005, nobody could be bothered to rebuild it; or maybe they didn’t have enough cash. Either way, that was the end of that.
Of course an independent Texas-conservative with a dash of libertarianism, ultra-capitalist with extra helpings of Biblical literalism would be a very interesting phenomenon indeed. But the truth is: there are many Texases. Out West we have desert and lizards and oil; Dallas and Houston are sprawling big business metropolises; East Texas is full of pine trees and hillbillies; in the southern tip of the state Texan and Mexican culture blend together; in Austin we have lefties, computer nerds and Sandra Bullock, while in the Panhandle there’s… well, nothing.
Clearly Texas is deeply divided and we would be looking at an Iraq-type scenario, were the state to actually secede. The bloodshed would be terrible. Indeed, I fear that not even President Chuck Norris could save us.