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Secession petitions

Doesn’t it seem more than just a bit ironic that, as the nation is paying attention to the 150th anniversary of the Civil War, there are petition drives around the nation seeking support for individual states to secede from the United States.

We’re not kidding ... there are still secessionists hiding under the bushes out there, a century and a half after this nation was torn apart by a bitter conflict over just that issue.

Apparently, there are some people unhappy enough with the re-election of Barack Obama to the White House or with mandated federal health care or the government’s role in our daily lives, or ... you name it.

And so they are working to have the state where they live strike out on its own. They’ve been signing online petitions — available through, of all places, a website the White House’s created — and the numbers have reached into the tens of thousands.

Not surprisingly, many of the states leading the “charge,” are those where the majority of voters taking part in the presidential election went for Obama’s opponent, Mitt Romney.

That means much of the old Confederacy is in play, with Texas, Louisiana and Alabama leading the way, joined by the states that put a claim on rugged individualism, taming the frontier, killing your own meat — places like Alaska, Montana and North Dakota.

It’s fascinating to note that many of the states leading this effort are ones that actually get the biggest handout from the federal government — they receive more federal money than they pay in taxes. Alabama, for example, receives some $1.71 for every $1 it sends to Washington.

To be fair, the discontent that some U.S. citizens are feeling can also be found in some supposedly “blue” states. Massachusetts has a petition going in which the Obama administration is being asked to “Peacefully grant the State of Massachusetts to withdraw from the United States of America & create its own government.” So far, a little more than 1,500 citizens have signed on, though there appear to be a mix of residents and nonresidents.

Apparently, the Obama administration has said if a petition reaches a 25,000-signature threshold, it will review it.

Of course, petitioning to have one’s state leave the United States and actually getting that permission in defiance of the Constitution are two different things.

So no one should be surprised if little happens in response to the petitions.

What now? Well, if we turn to history, we see that the southern states felt so strongly about maintaining the institution of slavery that they tried to forcefully break from the union of United States, attacking federal forts and seizing federal property.

In response, Abraham Lincoln said “Plainly, the central idea of secession is the essence of anarchy. A majority, held in restraint by constitutional checks and limitations, and always changing easily with deliberate changes of popular opinions and sentiments, is the only true sovereign of a free people. Whoever rejects it, does, of necessity, fly to anarchy or to despotism.

“Unanimity is impossible; the rule of a minority, as a permanent arrangement, is wholly inadmissible; so that, rejecting the majority principle, anarchy or despotism in some form is all that is left.”

Everyone should remember how well the idea of secession worked for the Confederacy.

Maybe what these petitioners ought to be thinking about is what President John F. Kennedy said: “Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.”

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