Even though the equinox isn't for a couple of weeks yet, everyone knows damn well that summer is over this weekend. The kids are back in school, and in New England at least, the temperature is rapidly plummeting. Soon enough, we'll be dealing with snow and ice again, but I digress.
Let's get geo-political today. Everyone is hopefully familiar with the concept of balkanization?
In a nutshell, it's when a large, powerful country is divided into smaller, less-powerful regions. It comes from the dissolution of the Ottoman Empire in the Balkan penninsula, but we've seen it again within living memory in the collapse of Yugoslavia in the same location.
But why do I think we might be headed the same way? Listening to the current campaign rhetoric, it's easy to point to any number of candidates and say that they have no concept of what the United States is, or should be.
Perhaps the biggest and most notable is Ron Paul, who believes that we should not have any sort of disaster assistance or help for those whose lives and properties have been damaged. For an example, he referred to the Galveston Hurricane of 1900
, which was one of the more devastating storms in US history. Possibly 12,000 Americans were killed...but what is lesser known is that the survivors were never able to rebuild. Galveston was a busy cotton-shipping port, and as such was populated mostly by the dock workers. After the storm, speculators and land developers swooped in and snatched up land at fire-sale prices, forcing out the working class folks that had lived there. As Bob pointed out yesterday....government can help prevent that sort of thing, but in the Balkan States of America, Ron Paul would have no such thing, and the divide between rich and poor would grow.
Staying in Texas....there's also Rick Perry. There has only been one prior president truly "from" Texas, and that's LBJ. But George Bush considered himself a Texan (born in CT) and curiously, Eisenhower was born there too, but considered himself to be from Missouri. Nevertheless, the argument can be made that the two presidents we've had "from" Texas are some of the most divisive in US history. Is America ready for another one? Governor Perry wears his religion on his sleeve..perhaps not a bad thing personally, but extraordinarily bad for government. In Rick Perry's Balkanized States of America, we'd have two classes of people; Evangelical Christians, and everyone else. I've said it before about religion...I'm glad for your beliefs, but tell me why you think YOUR beliefs need to be the law of the land?
That's just two of the candidates...I could go on, but I want to zoom up to 10,000 feet for a minute. Grammatically, it's tough to define the United States. Do we say, "The United States are"....(a collection of vaguely autonomous states) or "The United States is...(A unified, defined country.) I recall Ken Burn's "Civil War" and a statement by the historian Shelby Foote, which I've managed to find.
The whole article itself is an interesting read, but the relevant part remains what the late Mr. Foote said:
Before the war, it was said "the United States are." Grammatically, it was spoken that way and thought of as a collection of independent states. And after the war, it was always "the United States is," as we say today without being self-conscious at all. And that sums up what the war accomplished. It made us an "is."
So I think I have finally figured it out. Many of the candidates this year, Tea Party or otherwise, are screaming about "taking America back". I think this is what they want to take us back to; a collection of vaguely autonomous states that have no collective feeling for each other...where there is no common good, no shared responsibility or sacrifice, or indeed...no America as we all grew up to understand it.
It's a very dark prospect, and one I hope the masses can see and understand. If we continue down this path, stop for a minute and look in the rear-view mirror at the Ottoman Empire, Yugoslavia, or even the Soviet Union to see what happens when a powerful collective disintegrates. War, destruction, starvation, turmoil....these will be our fate if those that would destroy us have their way.