US Out of North America?

On December 17th, 1989, Romanian troops fired on anti-government protesters in Timisoara; on Christmas day, dictator Nicolae Ceaucescu and his wife Elena were executed. More than 40 years of Communist rule and nearly 25 years of personal rule by Ceaucescu came crashing down in a week and a day.

When US President Ronald Reagan urged Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to “tear down this [Berlin] wall” in 1987, few expected that wall to actually come down only 2 1/2 years later. Heck, few expected it to come down any time soon on the day that it did come down, 20 years ago next week.

For that matter, it was only six months from the election of Abraham Lincoln to the opening shots of the “Civil” War. Six months for one nation to become two, and for the two to go to war against each other!

When things political fall apart, they have a way of doing so incredibly fast.

Unlike many, I’m not inclined to just dismiss the predictions of Russian academic and former KGB agent Igor Panarin who thinks that the United States is on the verge of disintegration as a coherent nation-state.

Although some of the logic underlying Panarin’s forecast is … well, not exactly logical (California becoming province of China because most laptops are of Chinese manufacture, for example) … there may be some “there” there in the general outlines.

The wishful “one nation, indivisible” thinking of those with a nationalist mindset aside, the United States is a hodgepodge country: 300 million people scattered over 3.8 million square miles of non-contiguous territory.

For awhile after World War II (the most important domestic effect of which may have been putting English over the top as a “common language”), cultural homogenization — a McDonald’s on every corner and the latest sitcom one-liner told around water coolers from coast to coast — seemed unstoppable.

But it wasn’t. Anyone who lives in or visits a reasonably densely populated metropolitan area can attest to the fact that discrete cultural communities tend to separate themselves out from the larger whole, asserting their own identities and holding to their own customs and languages. It’s not so much that “national identity” is inimical to that process as that it’s irrelevant to that process. Within minutes of my own home in suburban St. Louis, I can find communities where Spanish is the predominant language; communities of Indian expatriates; communities of Bosnian Muslim refugees. They’re in America; they may even be “American” in one sense of the word or another. But they’ve also got their own things going.

And, of course, there’s the “Internet effect.” These days, it’s as easy for the average person to watch Al Jazeera as to watch Al Bundy, or to indulge any number of other interests that even two decades ago would have required extensive travel and a large bankroll. As our ability to establish meaningful relationships without reference to geography expands, our reasons for clinging to relationships based solely on geography diminish.

This whole trend of history is at odds with the notion of “national rule” by 537 politicians in one city on the Potomac … and the ties that bind us so are visibly fraying.

The media scream “polarization!” as the Washington establishment attempts to drag the entire country one way or another on this or that issue, and the cry is believable: A considerable portion of the populace is always dragged kicking and screaming regardless of which way that might be.

State legislatures are beginning to formally assert “10th Amendment” claims against federal power, and they may even make those claims stick. They’ve scared the federal politicians into writing “opt out” provisions into ObamaCare, at any rate.

Is it really such a giant leap from what’s already happening to the idea of the whole thing tumbling down, with its constituent parts reassembling themselves — or not — in various ways?

I don’t think it is. It’s happened before, here and elsewhere, more or less convulsively, and I see no reason to believe that the United State as currently configured is immune.

I don’t know if 2010 is the year, as Panarin predicts, but I think it’s coming. And when it does, I’m cautiously optimistic that people in at least a few odd corners (New Hampshire? The Colorado and Wyoming Rockies, perhaps?) will resist any meaningful reassembly of the machinery of state.

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