A Black Thanksgiving

I originally began this post as a discussion of the simmering “secession” story, which Ron Paul decided to toss gasoline on, using his House website. But, as Thanksgiving approaches, I cannot help but connect the original Thanksgiving (no, Virginia, not all that Pilgrim bullshit) with the present crisis.


Yes.  Crises, as any good bar bouncer will tell you, begin with certain signs and indications. It never comes out of the blue. And the crisis deepened today, as the Speaker of the House, John Boehner — who had already appointed the LOSING Vice Presidential candidate to the team that will attempt to avoid the so-called “Fiscal Cliff” — that selfsame John Boehner decided to demand, well, here it is from his hometown website, which may or may not be attached to a newspaper but is owned by Gannett:

House GOP is angling to repeal health care

John Boehner of West Chester Township is Speaker of the House and represents Ohio’s 8th congressional district, which includes most of Butler County.

President Obama has won re-election, but his health care law is still driving up costs and making it harder for small businesses to hire workers. As was the case before the election, Obamacare has to go.

The tactics of our repeal efforts will have to change. But the strategic imperative remains the same. If we’re serious about getting our economy moving again, solving our debt and restoring prosperity for American families, we need to repeal Obamacare and enact common-sense, step-by-step reforms that start with lowering the cost of health care.

The president’s health care law adds a massive, expensive, unworkable government program at a time when our national debt already exceeds the size of our country’s entire economy. We can’t afford it, and we can’t afford to leave it intact. That’s why I’ve been clear that the law has to stay on the table as both parties discuss ways to solve our nation’s massive debt challenge.

Congress has a constitutional responsibility to conduct thorough oversight of the executive branch, and congressional oversight will play a critical role in repealing Obamacare going forward….

Nice circular argument there, Weepy T. Orangeman. By defining the policy you’re against as “wasteful” then defining the common goal as requiring the removal of “wasteful” it’s an inescapable conclusion that

  1. Waste must be eliminated to save us from the “massive debt challenge.”
  2. Obamacare™ is wasteful.
  3. Therefore Obamacare must be eliminated to save us from the massive debt challenge.

Obviously even in that short syllogism, the first two terms are entirely debatable, but, ironically, that debate was resolved by an election, just as the question of secession was resolved by a Civil War.

(As in, Obamacare was designed to save us from the medical fiscal cliff in precisely the same way you’re trying to stop the ‘massive debt crisis’ from eating us alive OVER THE SAME TIME FRAME. In other words, this is a nakedly absurd assertion not backed by the facts, or, in that language that Dare Not Speak Its Name Through Pundit’s Lips: A Lie.)

Or, in the partisan argot: Well, elections MEAN something, you orange-skinned buffoon. And the decisive reelection of President Obama was a resounding vote FOR Obamacare™. Don’t parse, don’t lawyer: we said HELL YEAH! and you’re saying “HELL NO!”?

Let me tell you a little story while you chug a fifth or two, pal. OK?

Things were going better in 1863. After a hellish extension and expansion of a war everyone had thought would be over in a few weeks into the end of its third year, Gettysburg had been won, Vicksburg had been taken — on the Fourth of July — and following the disaster at Chickamauga on September 19 and 20 (the bloodiest two-day battle of the Civil War) , the Union Army of the Cumberland had been almost miraculously saved from complete annihilation by (in descending order) General George Thomas of Virginia — ever after known as “The Rock of Chickamauga” — General John B. Turchin of Russia (originally Ivan Vasilyevich Turchaninov, an Imperial Cavalry officer who’d emigrated to Chicago) and his brigade, and my Great-Great Grandfather, Benjamin Franklin Williams and his big brother, George Washington Williams, who were Indiana artillery attached to that brigade.

And a lot of other Indiana farm boys fought under Thomas and Turchin that day, including Eli Lilly (founder of the drug company) and, on another desparate part of the battlefield,  a Wisconsin Judge’s son, whose father had recently weathered a bizarre Wisconsin gubernatorial election, Arthur MacArthur, Junior, who would win the medal of honor in those same Chattanooga hills*, and whose son Douglas would himself achieve some military prominence and reinvigorate a dying corn cob pipe industry.

this has only a surrealist
connection to the narrative

[* Oh, and Arthur MacArthur Junior coined the Wisconsin motto "On Wisconsin" on Missionary Ridge on his Medal of Honor day, which has translated into a fight song that at least three separate high schools I attended had as THEIR fight song with altered words. Sousa thought  it was "the finest of college marching songs" and at least 2500 other schools think so, as well.  It was originally entitled "Minnesota, Minnesota." Thus does our culture compost itself.]

Nearly every community in America had been touched by the fighting that year, and by fighting,  I mean dead and maimed. We were in our third year of killing over a fiction known as “states rights” — meaning the right to slavery, as revealed by the various documents of secession — and all that highfalutin’ rhetoric had boiled down to the hard and brutal business of organized mass murder. Abraham Lincoln had just delivered the Gettysburg Address at the new National Battlefield in Gettysburg, where he was not even the featured speaker. (November 19, 1863)

And it finally looked as though an end to the war was in sight. But, more importantly, the very social fabric of the nation hadn’t unraveled: elections were still held in 1862, officeholders still took office in 1863, courts still worked, trade still worked, cities and towns still worked and the non-secession sections of the Union still functioned, as rascally, vigorous and screwy as ever.

Lincoln and the Civil War

In the middle of the American Civil War, President Abraham Lincoln, prompted by a series of editorials written by Sarah Josepha Hale,proclaimed a national Thanksgiving Day, to be celebrated on the final Thursday in November 1863. The document, written by Secretary of State William Seward, reads as follows:

The year that is drawing towards its close, has been filled with the blessings of fruitful fields and healthful skies. To these bounties, which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come, others have been added, which are of so extraordinary a nature, that they cannot fail to penetrate and soften even the heart which is habitually insensible to the ever watchful providence of Almighty God. In the midst of a civil war of unequalled magnitude and severity, which has sometimes seemed to foreign States to invite and to provoke their aggression, peace has been preserved with all nations, order has been maintained, the laws have been respected and obeyed, and harmony has prevailed everywhere except in the theatre of military conflict; while that theatre has been greatly contracted by the advancing armies and navies of the Union…

When we say “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the Republic for which it stands …” we are talking about the fundamental agreement of any democratic organization: the agreement to ACCEPT the results of elections.

American war dead at Antietam (1862)
The bloodiest day of the Civil War

Our Thanksgiving was born in that moment. In that time of blood and licking our national wounds.

Now, it has never been the case that all do, or that all ever will, but when the Speaker of the House basically says, “Fuck you” to the Will of the People, he’s putting the lie to every pompous moment that he’s emoted while ostentatiously placing his hand over his heart, near his omnipresent lapel flag pin (a trope invented by Richard Nixon) and mouthed those words.

“Pledgers” September 2010

One hundred and forty-nine years ago, the Union celebrated Thanksgiving in its modern form: thanks to Whomever that this crazy experiment in human dignity, rights and self-governance had been preserved in the most trying of circumstances: open, organized rebellion and inconclusive slaughter.

But look at us on the sesquicentenary of that war, and nearly the sesquicentenary of that first National American Thanksgiving:

Carol Moore writes in her LIBERTARIAN PARTY STRATEGIES in 2002 [with "minor updates"]:

2. SECESSION IS THE MOST BASIC POLITICAL RIGHT: The Libertarian Party platform explicitly mentioned Secession until 2006. It now recognizes the right of the people to alter or to abolish government; hopefully in future years the explicit right to se[sic ... 'secede'?].

In 23 years of libertarian activism I have never met a libertarian who would use police or military force to keep secessionist within the union–and I have asked that question of many libertarians. Secession really is the ultimate libertarian issue. Many libertarians believe that if the United States government recognized the right to secession, the U.S. would break up quickly into independent or loosely confederated states, regions and communities.

Normally, this would be fringie lunacy, as I used to see at newspapers when I received review copies of lovingly self-published “Protocols of the Elders of Zion”  and “Trilateral Commission” and “Get Us Out of the UN” volumes.  But, alas, it’s not:

Ron Paul: ‘Secession is a deeply American principle’

Ron Paul wrote that in the U.S., secession must always be an option.
By KEVIN CIRILLI | 11/19/12 4:43 PM EST

Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) said Monday that secession was a “deeply American principle,” amid a growing number of people petitioning the White House to let their states secede from the U.S.

Secession is a deeply American principle. This country was born through secession. Some felt it was treasonous to secede from England, but those ‘traitors’ became our country’s greatest patriots,” the former presidential candidate wrote in a post on his House website. “There is nothing treasonous or unpatriotic about wanting a federal government that is more responsive to the people it represents.”

He continued: “If the possibility of secession is completely off the table there is nothing to stop the federal government from continuing to encroach on our liberties and no recourse for those who are sick and tired of it.”

Since President Barack Obama was reelected earlier this month, a flurry of secession petitions from states were created — most notably from Texas, which with more than 115,000 signatures far exceeds the 25,000 signatures needed for an official White House response. Critics have said it’s disgruntled voters upset that former GOP presidential nominee Mitt Romney lost….

Hoo boy.

Frankly, it always pissed me off that in this, the Sesquicentenary of the Civil War, nobody ever asked Ron Paul his views on it. If anyone had really cared to see just how batshit crazy the retiring Texas congressman, former Libertarian Party Presidential Nominee, sire of a Kentucky Senator actually was, all you had to do was ask him whether Texas was right to secede during the Civil War.

And this is what you would have gotten.

But that wasn’t what “Who Wants To Be President?” was all about. No: it was the Roman spectacle of gladiatorial dumbass combat to see who could get cheers for letting people without health insurance die.

And here we are.

This stuff is important, because there is no real space between Weepy T. Orangeman’s declaration of War on the Will of the People and Ron Paul’s eliding defense of the Right of Secession.

Both are about refusing to accept the unquestioned results of a national election. It wasn’t just Mitt Romney that was repudiated by a nation.

Respecting the results of elections is THE prime directive of democracy. Its corollary is this: ALL LEGITIMATE POWER DERIVES FROM THE CONSENT OF THE GOVERNED.

We have conferred our consent, and, therefore, our legitimate power.

Thus, I would suggest that Mr. Paul and Mr. Boehner put a sock in it.

Because their path leads to Chickamauga.

A black Thanksgiving to hear so much treason spouted with such casual ease. Because words have power, and that is the bar fight that a good bouncer would defuse NOW.

150 years later, we still can’t agree
on what to call the first battle

Otherwise there are too many nuts with guns. Do not pooh pooh the “secession” talk. Stomp on it.

Stomp on it hard.


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2 responses to “A Black Thanksgiving

  1. sidney18511

    For one brief moment in time after the election, the republicans seemed to be tinkering with the idea of moving toward sanity. A couple of them were kicking around the idea of popping the crazy bubble that they surround themselves with. Then they sat back, had a big glass of koolaid, thought about it some more and decided that they liked it in crazy town just fine just fine.

  2. I don’t know about secession per se, but doesn’t anyone but me see this country has gotten too large to govern well? I’d like to see it split just for practical reasons – not by ideology but by population numbers.