Commentary

Here’s the risk to Pa. — and other states — from our national disunion | Ray E. Landis

A national divorce would put the most vulnerable at risk. They must be protected

May 25, 2023 6:30 am

Former Republican gubernatorial candidate Doug Mastriano poses with U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., at a rally in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., on Saturday, Sept. 3, 2022. (Capital-Star photo by Peter Hall)

U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, R-Ga., says many controversial things which demonstrate her regressive and narrow worldview. A recent statement garnered shocked condemnation from people on both sides of the political divide, but its premise is not as far-fetched as many seem to believe, even if it is the wrong approach to the problems that divide the United States.

In a rage about the Biden administration’s policies, Greene floated the idea of a “national divorce” and dividing the United States between “red” and “blue” states.

Critics have fumed the Civil War nixed that concept 160 years ago and noted that Greene’s home state of Georgia, which she presumably includes in the “red” state category, voted for President Joe Biden in 2020 and has sided with the “blue” Democratic candidate in three consecutive U.S. Senate elections.

The idea of disunion sounds preposterous to the many Americans who cherish Abraham Lincoln’s role in preserving the United States during the War of Secession and celebrate July 4 with patriotic parades. But beneath the surface, Greene’s notion of a need to split the country is shared by others, some of whom don’t ascribe to her extreme right-wing views.

Richard Kreitner, a contributing writer at The Nation, wrote a fascinating book in 2020 entitled “Break It Up.”

It tells the history of movements to divide the United States both before and after the Civil War. His final chapter reflects on the Trump years and the calls for secession and warnings of unrest from both Trump’s opponents and proponents should he win or lose re-election.

The book proved to be prophetic, in part, as it was published before the events of Jan. 6, 2021.

Kreitner’s thesis asserts that calls for the United States to be divided did not begin nor end with the Civil War and tensions among different factions within the country continue to grow. But those factions are not neatly divided by state boundaries. Pennsylvania is an example of how any approach to divide the country along state lines would be an impossible task.

The Capital-Star recently published a commentary by contributor Charles Allen reflecting on the preponderance of Confederate symbols on cars and in yards around Central Pennsylvania.

Through a visitor’s eyes: What you say when you fly confederate colors in Pa. | Charles D. Allen

A map of election results in the 2022 governor’s race shows how many counties voted for Christian Nationalist Doug Mastriano. Pennsylvania may have two Democratic U.S. Senators and may have chosen a Democrat in the past three gubernatorial elections, but millions of Pennsylvanians identify with the divisive rhetoric of far-right political leaders.

Greene’s tantrum has echoes of calls from slave-owning southerners to “leave us alone” in the mid-1800s. Just as some northerners sympathized with that sentiment in the 19th century, it is tempting for progressives to say “good riddance” to the likes of Greene, Ron DeSantis, and Greg Abbott and tell Florida, Texas, and other regressive areas to go their own way.

But doing so would ignore the impact of the prejudice, hate, and discrimination so prevalent in the policies being adopted by elected officials in those places. These injustices, and their embrace by the far-right, are the ultimate reason progressives cannot abandon the concept of a United States of America.

Millions of people in areas such as Texas, Florida, and parts of Pennsylvania would be at extreme risk of being at best marginalized and at worst, criminalized if federal laws did not protect them from some of the actions of radicalized state and local officials.

We are already seeing these officials pushing their right-wing agendas to the limit. And four years of Trump appointments have jeopardized protections the court system previously offered.

A more open-minded, educated younger generation offers hope for change, but the right-wing push to indoctrinate students instead of teaching them critical thinking skills threatens that avenue.

Republican Gov. Ron DeSantis’ Florida appears to be the laboratory for this effort, and the multitude of Floridians subjected to this have no recourse other than to rely on federal intervention to prevent the most serious abuse.

Federal policies have their limits, however. Without a movement for change from within these states, those who don’t share the fundamentalist Christian, white, straight agenda of far-right political leaders will be at risk. But such risk would increase dramatically if a formal division between “red” and “blue” areas took place.

When it comes to a divorce there is always a worry about “what happens to the kids?” It may seem paternalistic to put millions of Americans in the role of children.

But Greene’s proposed “national divorce” places the American public in the role of family court judge. And they must resoundingly deny this separation because should it occur, too many vulnerable individuals would have no protections from the cruelty of an abusive parent.

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Ray Landis
Ray Landis

A former spokesman for the Pennsylvania AARP, Contributor Ray E. Landis writes about issues that matter to older Pennsylvanians.

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