Catalonia to Cascadia
Since last November many of us in many places in the U.S. have heightened dreams of secession, of new nation-states, new sovereignty. It is true that many of us have had less intense versions of that fantasy for decades, waxing and waning from regime to regime. Now it’s approaching heart-attack serious.
Trump is a daily embarrassment; worse, he gets to use the fruits of our labor to carry out disgusting policies, drop the Mother of All Bombs on Afghanistan, likely pay for a cruel and retro-minded border wall with Mexico, and possibly even wage nuclear war with North Korea. He seeks to gain more personal wealth on the backs of poor people daily, he insults the victims of anthropogenically worsened climate disasters in the Caribbean, and is simply insufferable in his tone-deaf narcissism, adolescent braggadocio, and trailer-trash personal insults. One of my Vermont friends sent me notice that she has joined a group there calling themselves Most Likely to Secede. Some in the Upper Great Lakes region are reviving ideas of Miniwishigan, a nation-state of the U.S. side of the Lake Superior basin. Increasingly, Native Americans are discussing stronger sovereignty, often in broad, multi-tribal coalitions.
Here in the Pacific Northwest we refer to it as Cascadia. We even have our own flag, the beautiful Douglas Fir. We envision ourselves as Washington, Oregon, and northern California. We may need to reassess if eastern Washington and eastern Oregon prove to be Trump loyalists, essentially artifacts from the racist white homeland some wished for the Pacific Northwest from time to time. Maybe we are mostly coastal. And of course there are some serious Jeffersonians in a particular part of northern California, but they may or may not be amenable to a racially, religiously, ethnically diverse and eco-friendly vision for Cascadia. Let them secede in their own way or join us with forward thinking, not backward. So, as you may imagine, we love the serious struggle by Catalonians for their independence. They clearly want it even more than Puerto Ricans or Scots, voting to remain part of the U.S. and the UK respectively in 2017 and 2014. Puerto Rico voted to become a state and against independence; Scotland voted to remain a junior partner in the UK. I wonder if those peoples are regretting their votes? Gandhi once told the British (paraphrase), “We would rather govern ourselves poorly than have you rule us efficiently.” This is a sentiment held by many people worldwide, though when the voting chips are down, the blandishments of the hegemon often prevail. I am not suggesting that if we held a vote in Cascadia we would do as well as Catalonia, but as Trump alienates and makes us all roll our eyes and shake our heads, perhaps the potential vote is growing closer. One of my Vermont friends sent me notice that she has joined a group there calling themselves Most Likely to Secede. Of course the other North American secession movements are irredentist First Nation and Native American struggles to regain complete nation-state sovereignty, not the limited “trust relationship” sovereignty of the tribes to the U.S. government nor the more advanced but still unsatisfactory relationship of the Anishinaabeg to the government of Canada or the provincial government of Manitoba. The UN is a hostile environment for most secession movements since it is a composition of some 194 nation-states in a world that the anthropologists tell us used to be at least 800 distinct nations with sovereignty and their own lands, a natural world turned violently into the colonial system driven by European colonial powers for half a millennium, with new national borders crunching peoples together or splitting them apart in ways they well remember and generally regret. The UN’s members, thus, do not favor setting precedent by approving of secession when they often harbor groups who would love to rule themselves, too.
Indeed even the EU is not friendly to secession movements and said so publicly following the Catalan vote. This was a great blow and disappointment to the Catalonians who voted, some say in excess of 90 percent, for complete autonomy, independence, and separate nation-state status from Spain. Of course this picture is blotched by the Spanish police, who were ordered to prevent the independence vote, who attacked voters and injured nearly 900 of them, and who confiscated ballot boxes. How can accurate results obtain from such brutality, such a quash of indigenous democracy?
Are voters intimidated at times so severely that they simply stay away, thus compromising the results? It is hard to say with Puerto Rico, since the vote was not taken seriously by the U.S. government and a mere 23 percent of eligible voters actually cast ballots. But in Catalonia the Spanish government was dead serious and hyper-involved, possibly deterring a hefty percentage of potential voters by beating those who showed up at the polls and by blatantly seizing ballot boxes. Still, some 42 percent of registered voters did so.
So we shall see, here and abroad. Trump’s base includes many from states that attempted to secede and became the Confederacy, and the rest of us know it. More and more, we want less and less to do with him, with them, and possibly declaring our independence, our sovereignty, is the solution.
Thomas H. Hastings is director of the Peace Voice Program and author of A New Era of Nonviolence.