It's not a dirty word any more!

If you are like me, you probably used to think of yourself as a "constitution thumper." Maybe you still do. However, if you are like me and over 70% of Americans, you think this country is "broken" beyond repair. Are you surprised at that number? I sure was!

I've started studying the schedule of offerings at the Building a New World Conference coming up in three weeks at Radford University, and I couldn't believe it when I saw a session on [SHHHH!!!] Secession and Sustainability. WHAT!??! I thought only racists, fundamentalists, and libertarians said the S-word!

At the same time, I've been thinking about a future in which we must confront the fact that this country is too big to sustain itself in the face of the breakdown in transportation that I consider inevitable in light of climate change and soaring oil prices. I though about looking elsewhere in the world community for precedents to guide us in figuring out what to do. What a novel concept!

I noticed that the former Soviet Union collapsed of its own hubris - a sin/crime of which this country is surely guilty. I looked at the way the EU came together after meetings that looked very much like our own Constitutional Convention, except that what they came up with was a structure that was so loose that people would be able to keep their own language and cultural identity and be autonomous except concerning matters that affected everyone. But wait! Isn't that the way it was meant to be here?

I'll leave it to the historians and political scientists to figure out the answer to that question. I'm an activist. I want to ask a question I think is more important simply because it is more immediately in need of answering: What do we want to do instead? Why? And how? So when I saw that offering at the Radford forum, I started doing research. I went in two directions: first to develop a focus for my passion for community-building, and then to see if there was anything happening elsewhere along these lines. It's this second piece that I want to share with you in this post.

The answer is YES, it is possible to advocate for the peaceful dismantling of the federal government and have intelligent discussions with people with views that extend along the full spectrum from liberal to conservative and from authoritarian to anarchistic. There is a think tank called the Middlebury Institute that has been doing this since '04, and later this year, there will be a Third Secessionist Convention!

The report from the second annual convention is below. I would love for you to share your reactions.

Second Secessionist Convention Report

The Middlebury Institute for the study of separatism, secession, and self-determination, 127 East Mountain Road, Cold Spring, NY 10516

In a rare and powerful display of unity, the Second North American Secessionist Convention was held in October in Chattanooga, TN. Co-sponsored by the League of the South, working toward a free Southern republic, and the Middlebury Institute, the secessionist think-tank based in New York State, the convention drew eighteen delegates representing secessionist organizations in at least 36 states. The deliberations were watched by some 40 observers and organizers from an additional eight states.

The convention drew attention across the country, largely thanks to an AP story printed on its opening day that was carried nationwide in the on-line sites of the New York Times, Newsday, Washington Post, and USA Today, among others; and news of the event went international - to England, Ireland, New Zealand, Belgium, India, and Canada. Several television stations attended the gathering, a short film was posted on YouTube, a crew from Ithaca College filmed the entire proceedings, and more than 50 radio stations ran interviews with the convention leaders.

Press attention was so high in part because of the alliance among groups that on the surface would seem to have not a lot in common on political and social issues like abortion, homosexual rights, pornography, prisons, public schooling, religious observance, immigration, health care, or gun control. But none of those differences arose in the day-long proceedings because the groups were united on these overarching issues: opposition to the American empire, its current government, its war in Iraq, its corrupt and beholden legislatures, its invasion of privacy with the tools of repression, its repeated interference in state and local affairs, its quasi-fascistic affiliation of big business and big government, its enhancement of the dangerous power of international corporations, and the need to get out from under all that and restore liberty and democracy through peaceful secession.

As the convention put it in a closing document, the Chattanooga Declaration (reprinted below): "The deepest questions of human liberty and government facing our time go beyond right and left, and in fact have made the old left-right split meaningless and dead.... The American Empire is no longer a nation or a republic, but has become a tyrant aggressive abroad and despotic at home.... The States of the American union are and of right ought to be, free and self-governing." This extraordinary show of unity, felt palpably by the delegates around the room, made individual issues and policies irrelevant, subsumed under the clear need to work toward making secession a viable and reasonable option now for the people of the various States. That question - basically the "how" of secession, after its legitimacy and legality are established - is now perhaps the most important issue facing the secessionist movement and came in for extended discussion at the meeting.

Different groups outlined different approaches. The League works through state chapters and some of those have local chapters focusing on local issues, including property rights, taxes, centralization of power, and public display of the Ten Commandments. Vermont secessionists work through three affiliated organizations: the Second Vermont Republic think tank, a Vermont Commons newspaper promoting the state's unique character and history, and a group working to put secession on the agendas of the 250 town meetings over the next few years. The Alaska Independence Party has webpage and webradio sites, displays and sells T shirts, CDs and videos of past speeches, posters and the like (the university has proved a useful marketplace), and hopes to have public hearings on a repeal of the vote for statehood, which it regards as bogus. The Georgia LOS organization has a successful tabloid newspaper and a far-reaching radio network,, with a Southern Liberty Store that sells "lectures and speeches from the Southern Movement."

The question of working through the two major parties also came up, with opinions on both sides. One delegate from Texas ran in a Republican U.S. senatorial primary on a secession platform and garnered more than 50,000 votes and is fixing to try it again. A Georgia delegate ran for governor two years ago on a "Georgia first" platform and plans another race. A delegate from Louisiana has been organizing around a possible entry into next year's Republican primary race for President. Alaska secessionists have worked within both main parties. But strong sentiment was expressed that, even as an "issues" candidate, there were dangers in trying to work through established parties, who do not greet such ventures with open arms, and who traditionally have successfully co-opted or smothered maverick candidates. Some Vermonters are contemplating eventually fielding candidates for the state legislature on a forthright secessionist platform, avoiding major party labels.

The Chattanooga convention ended with a barbecue banquet addressed by Thomas Fleming, editor of Chronicles, "A Magazine of American Culture." His general argument was that once he was in favor of all secessions, but with instances like Kosovo, for example, he came to think that there were some bad secessions as well as good. It was not a theme that had much influence on an audience of people who, as this Second Secessionist Convention showed, were acting on the premise that any state or region working for secession, at least in North America, was legitimate and deserved support.

Cory Burnell, of the Christian Exodus movement that hopes to settle in and free South Carolina, mentioned in his presentation that a poll was taken last fall by the Opinion Research Corporation and broadcast by CNN on October 23, 2006. It found that 71 percent of Americans agreed that "our system of government is broken and cannot be fixed," and another 7 percent agreed it was broken but "hoped" it could be fixed. That is astonishing in one sense, since we are not normally provided such insight into the popular mind, but it is a measure of what should be obvious - and it provides extremely fertile ground into which secessionists can plant their seeds.

We will examine just what's growing and where at the Third Secessionist Convention next year, location to be determined.

Kirkpatrick Sale Chattanooga Declaration
Adopted at Second Secessionist Convention, 10/4/07

We, the delegates of the secession movements represented at the Second North American Secessionist Convention, acknowledging our differences, yet agree on the following truths:

1. The deepest questions of human liberty and government facing our time go beyond right and left, and in fact have made the old left-right split meaningless and dead.

2. The privileges, monopolies, and powers that private corporations have won from government threaten everyone's health, prosperity, and liberty, and have already killed American self-government by the people.

3. The power of corporations endangers liberty as much as government power, especially when they are combined as in the American Empire.

4. Liberty can only survive if political power is returned from faraway and self-interested centers to local communities and states.

5. The American Empire is no longer a nation or a republic, but has become a tyrant aggressive abroad and despotic at home.

6. The states of the American union are and of right out to be, free and self-governing.

7. Without secession, liberty and self-government can never be sustained, and diversity among human societies can never survive.


Mark A. Thomey
Franklin Sanders
Thomas R. McBerry, Jr.
Thomas Moore
Eugene C. Case
Larry S. Kilgore
Lynette Clark
Dexter O. Clark
David Towery
Michael C. Tuggle
Walter D. Kennedy
Robert Pritchett
Cory Burnell
Thomas N. Naylor
Kirkpatrick Sale
Michael Hill


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Al Gore agrees

Just in case it's cheating to blog only the people who support my views, I'll confess that I've had two dissenting opinions. But one was just an outraged reaction and the other was so ponderous that I couldn't get through it. This quick reaction comes from Dan "the man" Manweiler, another APEC colleague.

...the government is now not in service to the people, but to corporations. I agree with Mr. Gore's premise in Assault on Reason - that we have lost discourse with our government and therefore are loosing the fabric of freedom. I salute Susan's efforts to dive at the heart of the issue.


Rethinking states' rights

On May 3rd, a fellow Appalachian Peace Education Center activist and grandmother with the very fortunate name of Rachael Bliss published an entry in response to this post in her blog I'm sharing a significantly shortened version of her remarks with you.

To many of us progressives, the idea of secession runs against our grain. You know, some of those southern states had to be put in their place when they kept insisting on "states' rights." How I used to HATE those words! To me, they meant segregation, white supremacy, bigotry, and rule by the "good ole boys!"

When our country was forming, there was controversy whether it would be a federalist or a confederate type of government. Less than 100 years later, states that preferred a federalist type of government prevailed in a war that cost half a million lives. Although slavery was ended with the Emancipation Act, justice for the former slaves lasted for just a few years during Reconstruction before some states initiated Jim Crow laws that denied rights to Blacks. The '50s and 60s saw a groundswell among African-Americans and their white allies, and people hoped that at last there would be equal rights for all in this country. Yet even today, we are still working for equal rights and true justice for all our citizens.

While we were fighting these internal battles among the states and between the states and the federal government, our country was growing into an empire, threatening smaller countries, enriching itself by spreading its influence throughout the world. Thus we have seen unilateral attack on Iraq, involvement in numerous civil wars in developing countries, and an ever-tightening relationship between the federal government and multi-national corporations.

Today, the USA is an imperialist empire, much like Rome and Great Britain were centuries ago. We have witnessed the breakup of the former Soviet Union; it is no longer a world power. When Great Britain shed many of its colonies, it became a much more representative government. Do you think that perhaps if China would give up Tibet, Taiwan, Hong Kong, then it could govern the remaining people within its domain in a just manner? What does this say about the U-S-of-A? [Editor's note: Rachael, who said that those who refuse to learn from history are doomed to repeat it?]

Many believe that our country as it is organized today is unmanageable. Our legislators don't truly represent the people who elected them, we have a President that acts like a king, our government is spying on its own citizenry, and some states claim they get the shaft when it comes to federal monies coming back to them. In essence, our government has lost touch with its citizens, and it is mainly in partnership with powerful corporations as they use the rest of the globe to secure resources, control puppet governments, attack leaders who don't cooperate, extend their tentacles into dangerous places they don't belong, and use our children as pawns in a gigantic global chess game.

What would our 50 states be like if we became five countries: the Northeast, the Northwest, Southeast, the Midwest and the Southwest? What if we did separate into the United Red States and the United Blue States? Maybe Vermont could at last become its own country. Perhaps the 50 most vocal interest groups could each settle in one state, and thus there would no longer be the imperial empire that rules the world, but instead there would be many smaller countries representative of the hopes, dreams and even eccentric interests of the people who live there.

One concern about separating into a bunch of new nation-states is the headache of negotiating interstate environmental regulations. Interstate commerce probably wouldn't be that difficult to manage since free trade is in full force now anyway. The most positive outcome would be that no one nation-state would be strong enough to rule the world. No one country would be able to unilaterally attack another country halfway around the globe. Maybe peace would truly break out in the world.

I may have to change my mind regarding states' rights. I may even have to think beyond states' rights - think of new countries from what are now states. Maybe our grandchildren will never know what it is like to live in an empire. Instead they will be citizens of Iowa, or Michigan or Vermont with a small government and a more truly representative type of governance. Could this happen? Remember, Thomas Jefferson himself said that every generation needs a revolution. Maybe this is the time!

I'm grateful to Rachael for this view of history through the eyes of a southern liberal.


Three-state solution

I received the following comment from Powell Foster, a fellow Appalachian Peace Education Center activist, on May 3, and I want to share it with the propeace community.

Even our constitution was drafted by plutocrats, and it has been downhill ever since.

Before the war between the states, the states as a whole were referred to as "the United States are..." not "the United States is." What followed was the industrial revolution and a Supreme Court decision in the late 1800s declaring that, under the
constitution, corporations had the same rights as people. When Truman was president, the decline in the balance of powers started, with the Executive Branch gaining unequal power. And despite efforts such as POCLAD, we have become a corporate democracy - government of, by and for the plutocrats.

I often have wondered, if the War Between the States had resulted in at least three nations - the United States, the Confederate States, and the Western United States - would it have resulted in a group of nations too weak to go to war to "save" (read "use for our benefit") other nations? Would the 3+ nations have formed some alliance that might incorporate common needs such as one monetary system, open borders, free trade among the nations of the alliance, health, environmental and safety regulation? Is dissolving the union now and forming such an alliance among the individual states a practical way to meet these common needs?

Thank you, Powell. This is the question I want to address in order to reframe secession as a constitutionally-defensible act of nonviolent civil disobedience.


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