Chris Hedges: The New Secessionists

From Chris Hedges‘ most recent piece:

“The only way we will ever stop these wars is when we stop paying for them,” Naylor told me. “Vermont contributes about $1.5 billion to the Pentagon’s budget. Do we want to keep supporting these wars? If not, let’s pull out. We have two objectives. The first is returning Vermont to its status as an independent republic. The second is the peaceful dissolution of the empire. I see these as being mutually complementary.”

“The U.S. government has lost its moral authority,” he went on. “It is corrupt to the core. It is owned, operated and controlled by Wall Street and corporate America. Its foreign policy is controlled by the Israeli lobby. It is unsustainable economically, socially, morally, militarily and environmentally. It is ungovernable and therefore unfixable. The question is, do you go down with the Titanic or do you seek other options?”

This is the situation that faces us. The United States government is a rogue entity that is destroying itself with massive, unsustainable debt, while running roughshod over the entire globe, and its fuel is the tacit approval of its citizens.

That means you and me.

And why do we allow it to continue?

Well, I believe that part of it is simply media-induced apathy, but I also believe that our two-party political system guarantees that no significant change can ever happen.

Here’s the way it works:

There are two teams.  One is red and one is blue.  The two teams used to stand for different ideologies, and they’ve built up tremendous brand loyalty based on those original differences.  Somewhere along the way, though, both teams figured out that their checks were all signed by the same corporate shareholders, so they all started working exclusively for those shareholders.  They still pretend to be very different from one another, and some of them even are different on a few social issues, but both sides are in lock step with the shareholders on every issue where corporate profits are at stake, like health care, and banking, and war, regardless of what the masses want.

For a while, Team Blue gets to be in power, and Team Red points at Team Blue and blames them for everything that’s wrong.  Before too long, though, the tables are turned, and Team Red takes control, at which point, Team Blue dog piles on Team Red.  This system guarantees that half of the population always feel as if they’re winning, while the other half is strung along, content in their knowledge that their time will soon come.  It also gives the illusion of choice.

The big problem with all of this, of course, is that the color is the only thing that really ever changes any more.  The corporo-militarist elite continue to gain power and wealth at the expense of the masses, regardless of which color is in control at any given moment.  Over the past twenty years, this mechanism has been utilized to perfection to almost completely destroy the American working class.  Now the middle class is squarely in the cross hairs, and neither of these two teams can be counted on to rectify the situation.  In fact, they’ve repeatedly demonstrated that they will do everything in their power to make matters worse for regular people.  This recently became even more painfully evident when the supreme court removed all restrictions on corporate campaign spending in elections.  I’m very interested to see who the first Representative from the district of Wal Mart is going to be.

How has this happened?

Well, that’s a complicated question, as there are multiple factors, but the simplest answer begins with Bill Clinton’s signing of NAFTA and the WTO in the mid-nineties. Those of you old enough to have lived through it will remember Ross Perot describing a “giant sucking sound” in his debates with Bill Clinton and George Bush Sr. during the run-up to the 1992 Presidential election. The sucking sound, Perot assured us, would be produced by American jobs escaping across the border into Mexico if NAFTA was signed. Of course, it was right about this time that the corporate media circled their wagons and began painting Perot as a crackpot, because as I’ve said in this space several times before, the system will not tolerate anybody or anything that threatens the accumulation of more and more power by the corporo-militarist elite.

Watch this clip, where Perot laid out all of the problems that would result from the corporation-friendly trade agreements, including the destruction of America’s working class, the destruction of America’s production capacity, the creation of foreign sweatshops, and the promotion of pollution due to the lack of environmental controls in third-world countries.

Everything that Perot said in that clip has come true. All of it. And he wasn’t some rare genius either. He simply understood the logic of the situation, and was independent enough of the power structure to be able to talk about it. If rich, powerful MUTI-NATIONAL (and this is key) captains of industry are given the chance to increase their profits, they will take advantage of it. And they will do it at the expense of America, and its productive capacity, and its working class, and its middle class, and the global environment, and foreign worker’s rights, and in fact, just about anything.  Countries do not matter to people who control multi-national corporations.  Profits matter.  Period.

And none of these direct results of NAFTA took anybody by surprise, either. Well, at least not anybody who was paying attention. They were the extremely predictable results of legislation that blatantly favored the rights of the few over the rights of the many, and the candidate that accurately predicted all of this was immediately marginalized by the press, who instead chose to slather their appreciation on Bill Clinton, who, surprise, surprise, continued to bomb Iraq, began bombing Kosovo, and went on to not only sign NAFTA, but also to join the World Trade Organization, with very similar results. And if all of that isn’t enough, Clinton also signed the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, which repealed the Glass-Steagall act, which laid the groundwork for the global financial collapse that is still going on even as I type this.

Every once in a while, MSNBC allows some truth to sneak out, and it usually comes from Dylan Ratigan. This clip does a really good job of explaining exactly how Gramm-Leach-Bliley has gotten the world into the fine mess it’s in today.

Now, I really don’t mean to pick on Democrats exclusively, as I deplore both parties with equal zeal, so I will mention here that the two illegal wars of aggression, begun under false pretenses, by George W. Bush have also gone a long way towards creating our current financial situation with their accompanying world record military and intelligence budgets.  And Bush was also responsible for the Patriot Act, warrantless wiretapping, the Military Commissions Act, and many other unconstitutional erosions of our civil liberties.

And in January of 2009, in stepped Barack Obama, who seems to be following the same script as his predecessors, with the continued illegal occupation of Iraq, a stepping up of the war in Afghanistan, the signing of the No Insurance Company left Behind Act of 2010 (the healthcare “reform” bill), trillions more in Wall Street bailouts, re-upping the Patriot Act, and the creation of an extrajudicial White House Assassination Policy that applies to anybody the President deems a “terrorist,” including American citizens.

All of which brings us back to the Chris Hedges piece that I quoted at the beginning of this post:

“The only way we will ever stop these wars is when we stop paying for them,” Naylor told me. “Vermont contributes about $1.5 billion to the Pentagon’s budget. Do we want to keep supporting these wars? If not, let’s pull out. We have two objectives. The first is returning Vermont to its status as an independent republic. The second is the peaceful dissolution of the empire. I see these as being mutually complementary.”

“The U.S. government has lost its moral authority,” he went on. “It is corrupt to the core. It is owned, operated and controlled by Wall Street and corporate America. Its foreign policy is controlled by the Israeli lobby. It is unsustainable economically, socially, morally, militarily and environmentally. It is ungovernable and therefore unfixable. The question is, do you go down with the Titanic or do you seek other options?”

Indeed.  That is the question.  And I think the answer is that we all need to seek other options, because voting Democrat or Republican at this point is like trying to get your money back from a three card Monte table by playing another round of three card Monte.  Participation in a corrupt system is NOT the way to fix a corrupt system.  Especially when the system in question has been specifically designed to keep you from fixing it, or even figuring out that it needs to be fixed in the first place.  The way I see it, we need to start thinking in new ways like the secessionist movement in the Hedges article, or at the very least, another attempt at the creation of a TRULY independent 3rd party like the one that Ross Perot almost succeeded with before the corporate media torpedoed him.  But since we now know that any truly independent 3rd party will be marginalized by the media, the first step needs to be education.  Everybody needs to understand that the corporate media is not there to educate.  It is there to misdirect, and to promote the agenda of the corporate elite who own it, while silencing and or discrediting any movement that threatens them.  Spreading THAT message was the goal of this previous post as well, and as far as I’m concerned, it’s the single most important aspect of any plan to end the policies that are ruining the lives of so many Americans, while killing millions of innocents in completely unnecessary wars of aggression.

Here’s the Chris Hedges article.

The New Secessionists
Posted on Apr 26, 2010

By Chris Hedges

Acts of rebellion which promote moral and political change must be nonviolent. And one of the most potent nonviolent alternatives in the country, which defies the corporate state and calls for an end to imperial wars, is the secessionist movement bubbling up in some two dozen states including Vermont, Texas, Alaska and Hawaii. These movements do not always embrace liberal values. Most of the groups in the South champion a “neo-Confederacy” and are often exclusively male and white. Secessionists, who call for statewide referendums to secede, do not advocate the use of force. It is unclear, however, if some will turn to force if the federal structure ever denies them independence. These groups at least grasp that the old divisions between liberals and conservatives are obsolete and meaningless. They understand that corporations have carried out a coup d’état. They recognize that our permanent war economy and costly and futile imperial wars are unsustainable and they demand that we take popular action to prevent citizens from being further impoverished and robbed by Wall Street speculators and corporations. “The defining characteristic of the Second Vermont Republic is that there are two enemies, the United States government and corporate America,” Thomas Naylor, who founded Vermont’s secessionist movement, told me when I reached him by phone at his home 10 miles south of Burlington. “One owns the other one. We are not like the tea party. The underlying premise of the tea party movement is that the system is fixable.” Naylor rattles off the stark indicators of the nation’s decline, noting that the United States stands near the bottom among industrialized countries in voter turnout, last in health care, last in education and highest in homicide rates, mortality, STDs among juveniles, youth pregnancy, abortion and divorce. The nation, he notes grimly, has trillions in deficits it can never repay, is beset by staggering income disparities, has destroyed its manufacturing base and is the planet’s most egregious polluter and greediest consumer of fossil fuels. With some 40 million Americans living in poverty, tens of millions more in a category called “near poverty” and a permanent underclass trapped by a real unemployment rate of 17 percent, there is ample tinder for internal combustion. If we do not undertake a dramatic reversal soon, he asserts, the country and the global environment will implode with catastrophic consequences. The secessionist movement is gaining ground in several states, especially Texas, where elected officials increasingly have to contend with secessionist sentiments.

“Our membership has grown tremendously since the bailouts, since the tail end of the Bush administration,” said Daniel Miller, the leader of the Texas Nationalist Movement, when I spoke with him by telephone from his home in the small town of Nederland, Texas. “There is a feeling in Texas that we are being spent into oblivion. We are operating as the cash cow for the states that cannot manage their budgets. With this Congress, Texas has been squarely in their cross hairs, from cap and trade to the alien transfer and exit program. So many legislative pieces coming down the pike are offensive to people here in Texas. The sentiment for independence here is very high. The sentiment inside the Legislature and state capital is one of guarded optimism. There are scores of folks within state government who are supportive of what we are doing, although there is a need to see the public support in a more tangible way. This is why we launched our Let Texas Decide petition drive. We intend to deliver over a million signatures on the opening day of the [state legislative] session on Jan. 11, 2011.”

Miller, like Naylor, expects many in the tea party to migrate to secessionist movements once they realize that they cannot alter the structure or power of the corporate state through electoral politics. Polls in Texas show the secessionists have support from about 35 percent of the state’s population, and Vermont is not far behind.

Naylor, who taught economics at Duke University for 30 years, is, along with Kirkpatrick Sale and Donald Livingston, one of the intellectual godfathers of the secessionist movement. His writing can be found on The Second Vermont Republic website, on the website Secession News and in postings on the Middlebury Institute website. Naylor first proposed secession in his 1997 book “Downsizing the USA.” He comes out of the “small is beautiful” movement, as does Sale. Naylor lives with his wife in the Vermont village of Charlotte.

The Second Vermont Republic arose from the statewide anti-war protests in 2003. It embraces a left-wing populism that makes it unique among the national movements, which usually veer more toward Ron Paul libertarianism. The Vermont movement, like the Texas and Alaska movements, is well organized. It has a bimonthly newspaper called The Vermont Commons, which champions sustainable agriculture and energy supplies based on wind and water, and calls for locally owned banks which will open lines of credit to their communities. Dennis Steele, who is campaigning for governor as a secessionist, runs Radio Free Vermont, which gives a venue to Vermont musicians and groups as well as being a voice of the movement. Vermont, like Texas, was an independent republic, but on March 4, 1791, voted to enter the union. Supporters of the Second Vermont Republic commemorate the anniversary by holding a mock funeral procession through the state capital, Montpelier, with a casket marked “Vermont.” Secessionist candidates in Vermont are currently running for governor, lieutenant governor, eight Senate seats and two House seats.

“The movement, at its core, is anti-authoritarian,” said Sale, who works closely with Naylor and spoke with me from his home in Charleston, S.C. “It includes those who are libertarians and those who are on the anarchic community side. In traditional terms these people are left and right, but they have come very close together in their anti-authoritarianism. Left and right no longer have meaning.”

The movement correctly views the corporate state as a force that has so corrupted the economy, as well as the electoral and judicial process, that it cannot be defeated through traditional routes. It also knows that the corporate state, which looks at the natural world and human beings as commodities to be exploited until exhaustion or collapse occurs, is rapidly cannibalizing the nation and pushing the planet toward irrevocable crisis. And it argues that the corporate state can be dismantled only through radical forms of nonviolent revolt and the dissolution of the United States. As an act of revolt it has many attributes.

“The only way we will ever stop these wars is when we stop paying for them,” Naylor told me. “Vermont contributes about $1.5 billion to the Pentagon’s budget. Do we want to keep supporting these wars? If not, let’s pull out. We have two objectives. The first is returning Vermont to its status as an independent republic. The second is the peaceful dissolution of the empire. I see these as being mutually complementary.”

“The U.S. government has lost its moral authority,” he went on. “It is corrupt to the core. It is owned, operated and controlled by Wall Street and corporate America. Its foreign policy is controlled by the Israeli lobby. It is unsustainable economically, socially, morally, militarily and environmentally. It is ungovernable and therefore unfixable. The question is, do you go down with the Titanic or do you seek other options?”

The leaders of the movement concede that sentiment still outstrips organization. There has not been a large proliferation of new groups, and a few old groups have folded because of a lack of leadership and support. But they insist that an increasing number of Americans are receptive to their ideas.

“The number of groups has not grown as I hoped it would when I started having congresses,” said Sale, who addresses groups around the country. “But the number of people, of individuals, of websites and the number of libertarians who have come around has grown leaps and bounds. Many of those who were disappointed by the treatment of Ron Paul have come to the conclusion that they cannot have a Libertarian Party or a libertarian Republican. They are beginning to talk about secession.”

“Secessionists have to be very careful not to be militaristic,” Sale warned. “This cannot be won by the gun. You can be emphatic in your secessionism, but it won’t happen by carrying guns. I don’t know what the tea party people think they are going to accomplish with guns. I guess it is a statement against the federal government and the fear that Obama is about to have gun control. It appears to be an assertion of individual rights. But the tea party people have not yet understood how they are going to get their view across. They still believe they can elect people, either Republicans or declared conservatives, to office in Washington and have an effect, as if you can escape the culture of Washington and the characteristics of government that has only gotten bigger and will only continue to get bigger. Electing people to the House and Senate is not going to change the characteristics of the system.”

The most pressing problem is that the movement harbors within its ranks Southern secessionists who wrap themselves in the Confederate flag, begin their meetings singing Dixie and celebrate the slave culture of the antebellum South. Secessionist groups such as the Southern National Congress and the more radical League of the South, which the Southern Poverty Law Center has labeled a “racist hate group,” openly embrace a return to uncontested white, male power. And this aspect of the movement deeply disturbs leaders such as Naylor, Sale and Miller.

What all these movements grasp, however, is that the American empire is over. It cannot be sustained. They understand that we must disengage peacefully, learn to speak with a new humility and live with a new simplicity, or see an economic collapse that could trigger a perverted Christian fascism, a ruthless police state and internecine violence.

“There are three or four possible scenarios that will bring down the empire,” Naylor said. “One possibility is a war with Iran. Another will see the Chinese pull the plug on Treasury bills. Even if these do not happen, the infrastructure of the country is decaying. This is a slower process. And they do not have the economy fixed. It is smoke and mirrors. This is why the price of gold is so high. The economy and the inability to stop the wars will alone be enough to bring us down. There is no escape now from our imperial overstretch.”

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1 Comment

  1. […] Greenwald wrote a terrific piece yesterday in which he splendidly makes a point that I’ve attempted to make repeatedly in this space.  That point is that any viable challenge to the two party […]


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