675 comments later…

My FB is still full of completely delusional people who seriously think secession is a brilliant idea that will be totally peaceful and not a bloodbath.

So far, there have been three schools emerging in the discussion.  One is the school that envisions a sort of Catholic Benedictine Hobbiton that will just peacefully go somewhere out in the boondocks, brew beer, have kids, dress modestly (no pants ladies) and talk about high theology while we all read Chesterton.  Think of it as Beacon House on steroids or the Napoleon of Notting Hill transplanted to wilderness of Wyoming.  These keep pointing to places like the former USSR’s miraculous peaceful and insisting that history will just repeat itself, truth them.

Another group that has emerged has been the angry progressive, outraged about injustice to American Indians, fed up with our drone wars, militarism, and hedonist, democratic capitalist empire asserting itself at gunpoint around the world.  Think of it as Occupy Wyoming.  These too assert that secession will just happen peacefully… somehow.

Finally, there is the biggest and most aggressive contingent, the Tea Party gun zealots who have been having hysterics about HITLERSTALINMAOBAMA!!!! and his legions of gun grabbing goons who are coming in their black helicopters to kidnap our children and turn them into Janissaries of the Islamonazicommieatheistsharia New World Order and march us all into concentration camps.  These tell me, as well, that secession will proceed peacefully–unless the authorities don’t *let* it proceed peacefully, in which case it will be necessary for all True Patriots to commend themselves to Divine Providence as our Founding Fathers did and take up the sword for freedom!

What this means in translation is, if no state legislature votes to secede, it will be necessary for “citizen soldiers” (aka “vigilantes”) to do one of two things:

1. form a compound bristling with arms in which the residents refuse to pay taxes till the Feds come to a) arrest them or b) immolate them and their families in a Waco-style gun battle;

2. Take the fight to The Man by committing acts of terror such as shooting up a mall, blowing up a Federal Building, or bombing some  military installation or other symbol of Federal power.

All the forms of secession listed above have one thing in common: they will all end in some form of violence and could very easily end in some form of deadly force.  What none of them will end in is… secession.  That ain’t happening.

Some of my readers complain that my diagnosis of their delusional fantasy is really just a testament to my cowardice because I won’t go down “fighting for the right side.”  Others appeal to the Founding Fathers and complain of Obama’s tyrannical acts (HHS Mandate, secret kill lists) as sufficient reason to go for this lunatic plan.

What nobody does is look at Just war teaching or anything the bishops of the Church have to say.  They get all this stuff from teh interwebz and various samizdat written by libertarian kooks and fevered theorists and (most recently) nutjob fans of Medjugorje who have now passed from believing money-grubbing charlatans to spinning their quackery into apocalyptic nightmare scenarios compounded of Protestant endtimes lunacy, loopy Glenn Beck conspiracy theories, and crazy Catholic fever swamp panic.  All this is egged on by cynical demagogues like Sean Hannity, who know perfectly well that secession is never going to happen, but who keep the base energized with this as the latest thing to scream about.

The problem, of course, is not that any state is going to secede.  It’s that some new Tim McVeigh, impatient with the slowness of the American people to realize the Divine Plan, tries to hurry history along with another bomb at another Federal building or a some slaughter of IRS workers or some other outrage done for the love of the Real America.

The whole secessionist pipe dream is not–for 99.9% of the flabby daydreamers yakking about it out there, anything they will ever lift a finger to accomplish, of course.  But it’s still an indictment, particularly of the Faithful Conservative[TM] Catholics who toy around with that crap.  These guys lazily talk as though they somehow stand in the tradition of Martin Luther King (“Hey!  He applied for a gun permit once since he, for some reason, thought some nut might shoot at him!  So he favors our plan for armed insurrection!”) while never quite addressing the fact that King (and St. Paul) faced a world a helluva lot more hostile than that faced by the plump white suburbanites who lost an election and are now grumbling about making war on their fellow citizens. And, like St. Paul, King did not secede or preach armed insurrection.  He evangelized that culture.  What Catholics *should* be talking about is evangelization, not secession.  We in fact live in an hour of plenty, after a century that has seen a 7000% growth in the Church worldwide.  How *dare* we talk about despair, giving up, leaving, having no hope?  That is the sin of sloth, not of patriotism and certainly not of courage.  Before you start gassing on about the brave deeds you will do in the coming apocalypse, how about you secessionists put down the remote, close the laptop and maybe take half an hour for Eucharistic Adoration, or to work in a soup kitchen or start a Bible study?

  • dpt

    Been reading a biography on John Quincy Adams, by Harlow Giles Under, and it was interesting to learn that the New England states were discussing secession in the late 1790s and early 1800s.

    And for those who believe our current politic process is divisive and petty, and that our founding fathers would be upset with the way we do things today…things were quite divisive, partisan, and petty back then too.

    • “joe”

      this is an important point, that however bad it is, it’s been as bad before. i was relieved, in a perverse way, during the iraq invasion, to read that during WWI there was just as much vitriol and jingo about warmongering and “enemies” (in that case, germany, germans, and shades of political red).

      and while secession is not a untouchable topic, the idea of using violence to foment it really is absurd and dangerous. people would die, and to no effect. there may be a way for a state to vote itself out of the union, i just don’t know, but it would have to be nonviolent like that to be successful at all.

  • Quinault Squatting Bear

    Thank you! That so needed to be said. We have it so good here in America, yet we’ve become terrified of our own shadows; we’ve come a long ways from “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”

  • Scott

    Great post Mark! I wish I could convince my wife and some of our friends that Beck and his ilk are just fear mongering opportunists and it is not against Church teaching to IGNORE THEM!

  • Kirt Higdon

    The number of nations in the world has about doubled or tripled since WWII and all of this has come about as a result of separation in one form or another. Some has been peaceful, some very violent and most somewhere in between. Because the one attempted break-up of the US was crushed by the central government in an ocean of blood, it seems to be taken for granted that any attempted separation here would be violent and would be crushed. Americans must not even think about any change in the geo-political status quo of the US although the US regime remains perfectly free to promote separatism in other countries as it wishes. This strikes me as an outgrowth of the pernicious doctrine of American exceptionalism. “America is the necessary country”, as Madeline Albright put it. The US is necessary, hence eternal, and all other countries are contingent and separable if the US regime wants them separated.

    • Mark Shea

      It will result in blood because a) the Feds will not stand for it and b) the main people pushing for it are nuts with fantasies of violence who perpetually talk of the Second Amendment as their bulwark against tyranny and the need for guns to pull off this revolt. It *will* end (quickly) in violence and very possibly bloodshed, mostly for the secessionists.

  • Sherry Weddell

    Mark: just a little statistical correction: The Catholic Church grew 400% from 1910 – 2010. Catholicism in Africa grew over 6000% during the 20th century. Your friend in nerdliness: Sherry

  • SteveP

    In what geographical locale would this Catholic Benedictine Hobbiton reside? I’m definitely interested in applying for citizenship to any nation upholding the key of civilization – second breakfast.

    • Brandon Jaloway

      Me too! I would feel much better if everyone around me also joined me in eating second breakfast!

    • Andy, Bad Person

      I might not eat 6 meals a day, but I will fight to the death for someone else’s right to.

  • Elaine S.

    While secession isn’t a viable solution to the problem of an overbearing federal government, it might be time for states to just start saying no to some of the more egregious federal measures and asserting their rights under the 10th Amendment (powers not given to the feds are reserved to the states or the people). States are, after all, more than just lines on a map; they are sovereign entities with many of the same powers as independent nations (other than coining money, raising armies and declaring war). They could just exercise some of the powers they already have, and if it means doing without federal funding for some things, so be it. No need to either secede or to just roll over and play dead.

  • http://www.godandthemachine.com Thomas L. McDonald

    Bah, I don’t have time for any pantywaist sesech talk. My motto is: Every Home a Country! I’m founding the state of McTopia here on my Own Little Acre. I’ll print passports and mint money and give my chickens full citizenship and wear a cool hat and uniform and shoot the first person who steps on my lawn, especially that meter-reader guy. Can’t STAND him.

  • http://sherryantonettiwrites.blogspot.com Sherry

    Yesh….if only all who thought like me lived with me…and I could cut off all those who do not think like me, let them rot. Then there would be Youtopia or rather, Metopia…because eventually, everyone else would have to go…if I were to have perfect agreement.

  • Linda C.

    “What Catholics *should* be talking about is evangelization, not secession. We in fact live in an hour of plenty, after a century that has seen a 7000% growth in the Church worldwide. How *dare* we talk about despair, giving up, leaving, having no hope? That is the sin of sloth, not of patriotism and certainly not of courage.”

    This I agree with, so I take it that the majority of your objection to “Catholic Benedictine Hobbiton” is its escapism. (BTW, I could be wrong, but I don’t see adherents of that position as likely to try to achieve their goals violently, so of the three groups you describe, they would be least likely to provoke a violent government response. More likely they’d be dismissed as non-threatening flukes, much like the state views the Amish.)

    • Mark Shea

      I like the escapism just fine. It’s the impossibility I object to.

  • Elaine

    After reading your politics for a few months, I have completely turned off and tuned out the news because of stuff like this.

  • Clare Krishan

    Elaine – you are a rational voter and you’re in good company, see here:
    http://www.zerohedge.com/news/2013-01-29/why-are-american-voters-so-uninformed
    The information that doesn’t help? Well apart from 40 years of zero traction on overturning Roe v Wade, try this on for size:
    America may be “the necessary country” (holding the waters in Atlantic Ocean from just washing overland and joining the waters of the Pacific in an oh-so efficient short cut to the Humboldt current) but the Nation State is another matter. Financed by materials bought and sold by service providers the erosion of the wealth and therefore power to sustain its citizens is ongoing : Treasury Gives A 0.889% Yield For $35 Billion In 5 Year Paper (that means that the government has put $35 billion new dollars into circulation (not from savings of thrift or tax revenue but ex nihilo) and will pay the trivial sum of less than a cent to those of us willing to risk giving them a dollar of our nest egg to use for 5 years. Thanks to inflation — 14% of us ‘brights’ know what this is remember as Prof Thomas reminded us in clip — is losing purchasing power twice as fast if you believe the numbers collated by the Federal statisticians, or ten times as fast if you believe the way you’re wallet’s been emptying has accelerated to cover the rise in prices of basic commodities.
    http://www.cnbc.com/id/42551209/Inflation_Actually_Near_10_Using_Older_Measure
    America is being fleeced from the inside out.
    How long we can sustain this remains to be seen. There are historical precedents: the ancient Roman Empire collapsed under similar protracted currency debasement after centuries of certainty.
    The Black Swan phenomenon – it’ll never happen, until it does. Read up on why subsidiarity makes such good sense in Nassim Nicholas Talib’s latest: Antifragile.

  • http://pavelspoetry.com Pavel Chichikov

    Power turns you over to the Enemy, and then you become the Enemy.

    One has no specific answer to increasing and more efficient social control , but violent resistance is not it. Probably conversion of the controllers, by example.

  • sbark

    I think that the US federal government has not only ignored the concept of subsidiarity but has gone the totally opposite route. Our national political class believes that the federal government should be deeply involved in every issue in the country. I generally think that breaking the country into several smaller countries would be a good thing because it would decentralize some of the current decision making. I also believe that there is no way it will actually happen. There isn’t enough opportunity for the politicians to profit by giving up some of their power for it to happen.

  • Julie

    Mark, I know you have respect for many things that Ron Paul has said. Here is a video he recently made on the subject of secession. I think it is important to hear him out, whether or not he is proven right. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nhQ31b_dbnM

    • Mark Shea

      Ron Paul is a nice man–and a kook. Nowhere more kooky than here.

      • Julie

        How about Ron Paul is a very decent, very bright man with some kooky, perhaps non workable ideas?

        • Mark Shea

          Works for me.

  • Beccolina

    The fact that two of those group mention Wyoming is making this Wyomingite very, VERY nervous. Not that I object too much to a Benedictine Hobbiton (I’m all for good beer, and if they include pickles and pretzels, we’re good).

  • Michael Neal

    I am not in favor of secession because there are still political solutions. That idea should only be considered in a complete breakdown where we have lost all hope of changing things through democracy, if some sort of dictatorship takes control. I do disagree with you completely about the impossibility if it though. If only 30,000 villagers in Afghanistan can basically hold off the US military with all of its tanks, jets, etc. for over a decade, tens of millions of gun owners (many which have extensive military experience) and over a territory vastly greater than a country such as Afghanistan, could easily fight off a military regime. They simply would not be able to control that much territory from that many revolutionaries.

  • Hans-Georg Lundahl

    What about individual acts of armed resistance to oppression unjustified?

    I shot at a policeman in order to avoid psychiatry. I am out though possibly under some covert surveillance. And there is Idaho case. But took father’s rifle to defend siblings from child welfare


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