Secession and Steampunk


This is well organized.

I see, from the all-powerful innerwebz and facebuttz, that some folks in some states are petitioning for secession from the US. It’s interesting, a clear statement of the power of federation as a type of government, that these folks can post their petitions peacefully on the website.

I ran across these pearls as I was working on some historical research for my foray into steampunk fiction. While slavery was the moral mcguffin of the American Civil War (1860-65), the issue was states’ rights, the rights of states to make their own laws, including laws about slavery. All wars are about economics, and The Recent Unpleasantness was no different. The Southern agricultural economy was built on cheap, slave labor, which was economically unfeasible in the North with its short growing seasons. The conditions of the Northern factory workers was not slavery, as the industrial capitalists had nothing invested in their workers. The difference is that sweatshop workers can’t be sold on the auction block.

What many people do not realize is that the concept of nationalism was still developing in the western world at that time. One reason the Grimm Brothers collected their Märchen (stories) was to show that a national culture existed in the many German states, connected by language and folk tales.  It’s something of a joke on them that these same stories were in many cases translations from writings in the 1600s—about as far in their past as they are in ours. They published their stories first as research to prove a national character, but then needed money and cleaned up the stories for the children of the rising middle class.

England, France, Germany, Austria and many other countries have been fighting over shifting borders since the fall of the Roman and the less-than Holy Roman Empires. Bosnia, Serbia, and the former Soviet republics are all continuations of this struggle to have a piece of land that denotes a national identity.

Bruce Catton’s often studied essay about Grant and Lee brings forth this idea that Lee lead the South primarily  to protect his home state of Virginia, where Grant saw the division of the Southern states as a loss to the markets of the more industrialized North.  Just yesterday I read—and of course, did not take notes to cite my source—that the War between the States was the first industrialized war, won by factories more than by the deaths of 600,000 soldiers, more Americans killed than in all other American wars combined. (Of course, all the soldiers were American, so it adds up faster that way. ) The aftermath of that kind of war is seen in the World War Parts I and II, and the now robotic wars of the Middle East.

My point here is that those who do not know their history are doomed to repeat it. I hope that the sense of nationalism, and I hope here at the end of 2012, a growing sense of globalism, will overcome this petty distress over the recent election—a continuing unpleasantness. But having some vague notion, now I can rethink some of my ideas about how to construct an alternate Reconstruction. There are way too many scalawags and carpetbaggers all around us.

We need a better way to choose candidates, as the popular opinion can be spun, folded, spindled and mutilated by the antics of various commentators and pundits. But once an election is held, and the law upheld, then let us see what the real issues are and who is stepping up to get some of them handled instead of climbing up on yet another soapbox to add to hot air being spewed—a clear cause of global warming.

To any state that succeeds in seceding, I say, “Don’t let the screen door hit you on the way out.” South Carolina, my adopted home state, tried this path 150 years ago. It didn’t work out then, and I don’t see much of a benefit to trying it now.  Only children take the ball and go home instead of staying to learn to play well with others.

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