photo credit: J Heffner

The mere mention of the word “secession” leads many an American to recoil in horror. A superficial understanding of the poorly-named “Civil” War has left a bad taste in the mouths of those who cram said mouths full of barbecued meats and junk food in an annual celebration of the very action they think they despise.

As we celebrate Independence Day this year, it becomes increasingly apparent that many who wrap themselves in patriotic paraphernalia do not see the cognitive dissonance they suffer from. American’s revolutionary war against her former imperial master was an explicit act of secession. The invective hurled at anybody today who references the word, let alone advocates for its implementation, is saddening in general, and hypocritical when the individual celebrates in certain cases that which they attack in others.

Why was secession okay back then, but not now? Surely the Tories during colonial times employed the same rhetoric, accusing the rebels of treason and sedition. They who were loyal to the British empire have spawned a philosophical progeny who today uses the same arguments against their fellow countrymen. Rebellion against the Crown was acceptable, but against the federal government is attacked?

Reading the list of grievances in the Declaration provides an interesting point of reference to compare against today’s governmental atrocities. In many ways, the King’s offenses were laughably insignificant in comparison to today’s abuses. In others, our government thankfully has not yet come close. But if the injustices perpetrated on our ancestors were deemed sufficient to secede then, it seems obvious that should a similar standard be exceeded in our own day, then secession might (or should) be “on the table.”

Jefferson was right to note that “governments long established should not be changed for light and transient causes,” observing that “mankind are more disposed to suffer, while evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the forms to which they are accustomed.” But when a free people has reached a point of being unable to tolerate aggression that has found neither recourse nor remedy, why is secession not a praiseworthy alternative?

I’m not necessarily advocating that anybody secede today, but I am suggesting that the dismissive rhetoric so often used to attack those who suggest it be done away with—especially by those who champion the “shot heard ’round the world” and everything that followed. One cannot both praise America’s secession from Britain two centuries ago while also claiming that secession has no place in today’s political discourse.

And so, I wish to all a happy independence day, and praise God that the statesman of centuries gone by had the bravery to secede from an oppressive, distant government.


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