On going it alone.
Brexit started the most recent round of enamored desire for independence.
That Trump-like campaign to free Britons of the burdens of social, economic and legal interactions with neighbors just because they share status of Europeans insisted that the Brits break off into a legally separate nation again. The government in place fell, to look at lot more Trump-like, immigration unfriendly with concerns a bit more nationalistic.
A year later, the parties are still arguing about how to do it, the nay-sayers are pointing to the predicted economic problems that can result, and Brits themselves are wondering whether they got what they asked for, and whether they should have asked for something else instead.
In the Middle East, we have the Kurds, whose many generations of aspiration for affirmation of their ethnic separatism is creating much unease. The Kurds say they are not Iraqi and they are not Turkish or part of anyone else’s existing country; they should be their own country. The emerging conflict will involve putting forces on all sides whom Americans have equipped with weapons and training against one another. U.S. officialdom is sticking its head in the sand, and hoping that it all goes away.
This week, the Catalonians sprang up in the region around Barcelona, with Spain reacting harshly in response. Just yesterday, Spanish Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy vowed to oust Catalonia’s leaders and to hold a fresh round of elections “within the next six months” in hopes of getting a different outcome than a violence-torn vote earlier this month. The Spanish Supreme Court declared the break-off vote in Catalonia non-binding, and Rajoy is using rarely invoked parts of the constitution for special regional powers to call for new local leaders. Separatists in Catalonia, led by regional President Carles Puigdemont, staged their chaotic referendum despite the fact that Madrid had declared it illegal. If more than 2 million people voted to declare independence, the overall turnout for the vote was less than half of the region’s total population.
Of course, people have been separating in the name of Me and Mine First since cave days whether in countries, clubs, cliques, genders, anti-genders, religions or national boundaries. How many civil wars have there been, declared or not?
The issues in all of these moves for separate status are generally the same — a desire of people of a certain stripe, whether ethnic, geographic, language and culture, to declare independence from rules that they find oppressive and less than respectful of their heritage. For the record, President Trump said his preference is for Spain to remain whole. But that could have been just because he was host to Rajoy that day.
All of this separatist talk seems top of mind the further we go into the Trump presidency.
Calls on the one side for Blue States to consider breaking off into a nation unto themselves are making their way more frequently into Facebooks and other social medica. Calls for secession by Texas or other Red States were loud during the Barack Obama years, less necessary now that someone who basically either is a Red Stater or is passing as one has taken the White House.
And in all of these cases, the reasoning is the same. Somehow, we only can exist happily in a country where everyone agrees with us. Diversity in ethnicity, diversity in cultural interests, diversity in thinking seems to be anathema. It is exactly this type of “one-think” that is coming to dominate our political discussion.
And since that kind of singularity of thought never works, the logical alternative seems not to be compromise or even interest in hearing the other guy out, but separatism and isolation.
I’m withholding judgments about Catalonia and a possible Kurdistan, but separatism rarely meets all the needs out there. There are important economic concerns in all of these cases; even in Britain, the Brexit decision seems to be boomeranging on the United Kingdom. In Asia, a separated North Korea may be culturally intact, but seems pretty gritty in most other respects; clearly a united Korea could expand the economic success of the South, even if it would require a diversity in political thinking that seems simply unthinkable.
Separatism is what comes about putting your own interests forward at the expense of the Other. That’s the dangerous notion behind America First in so many ways. The more separate we insist, we put at risk the NAFTAs and other trade agreements that we insist on “winning” even though these treaties are meant to help spread a sense of prosperity to our neighbors, for example. They may not succeed, but that is the intention. Separating the United States from 192 countries pulling on efforts to address climate change isn’t helping anything. Separating whites from people of color, rich from poor, Democrats from Republicans don’t seem to help.
When I hear Steve Bannon stumping to replace anyone in Congress who uses reason, experience and thinking to perhaps vote against a Trump-outlined but specific bill, I think this is the result of isolation and separatism. It is about separatism for My Way, not for the success of generational expression of ethnic identity.
Let’s think carefully about seeking secessions.