Thursday :: Dec 8, 2005

My Country, Split In Three, ...

by pessimist

If Might Makes Right, does Hate Make Us Great? Will Greed Make Us Bleed?

It might - as long as the divisiveness of the American people continues to grow.

Divisiveness leading to national dissolution isn't exclusively an American national issue. It is, in the opinion of at these two authors, an American continental problem.

More and more futurologists are predicting that not only the United States, but Mexico and other countries in Latin America might become divided into smaller states in the decades to come. The flag to which many of these countries swear allegiance today may well not be the same flag to which their children or grandchildren swear loyalty.

Last year, Samuel Huntington, the well-known political historian from Harvard University, made major headlines with a book titled, Who We Are, in which he warned with alarm that the territorial integrity of the United States is being threatened by the growing Hispanic population in the country. Even more serious, says Huntington, is that they come from a neighboring country [Mexico] still wounded from having lost half its territory [over a million square miles], and that they "can achieve a historic reclamation from the United States."

[A] new book is about to go on sale, written by Juan Enríquez, a former Harvard professor who is now the founder of a company dealing with human gene mapping. In it, he makes a much more intelligent analysis of the possibilities for the creation of new states – or countries – in the Americas.

Enríquez doesn't anticipate a Mexican reconquest of the Southern U.S. states. On the other hand, he says that perhaps the Hispanics of northern Mexico and the southern United States will seek to create autonomous states, if they feel that they have less and less in common with their central governments. Look at what is happening in England and Spain, he says.

In Mexico, Enríquez sees possible breakaways in four regions or countries: the North (the free trade region), central Mexico (Mexico City and its surrounding area), indigenous Mexico (Chiapas, Guerrero, and Oaxaca), and New Maya (Yucatán, Campeche and Quintana Roo).

Generally, it is the richest regions – not the most neglected – that we find to be "dis-unified." Such regions feel that they are giving more than they are getting in return to the societies to which they belong, and they assert that they want to leave.

Civil-War Era Cartoon Illustrating the Fissures Between the American North and South

Enríquez argues that in the United States, the richer states like New York, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Minnesota are constantly compelled to pay more in taxes than they receive in return. Noting that the majority of these states vote Democratic, and are not part of the Southern "Bible Belt" which votes for President Bush's party, shows clearly that the people of these states "have much more in common with Canadians than they do with those who live in States that are pro-Bush."

Graphic by Dave Ruderman

Countries, like marriages or corporations, frequently come to a breaking point, at which they either split up, or they die. Enríquez' new book, The Disunited States of America, published in English by Crown Business, reminds us that, in 1950, the United Nations had 50 member states. Today, that number has grown to 191. While between 1900 and 1950, an average of 1.2 new countries were formed per year, between 1950 and 1990 that number grew to 2.2 new countries a year; and from 1990 to the present, the average has risen to 3.1 per year.

"We have paid little attention to the fact that many countries have been divided or have disappeared, because our hemisphere has enjoyed a surprising stability," says Enríquez. "We haven't had new frontiers on the American continent since 1910. But this stability may well be coming to an end."

The most likely outcome, as described by Enríquez himself, is that the less governments show positive results to all their citizens, the more we will see a growing tendency in these discontented regions to seek greater autonomy within the context of free associations or regional common markets.

The elements for separation are already there: regional discontent, transnational projects and governments increasingly incapable of meeting the expectations of their people.

Friends for a Day: Presidents Bush and Uribe in Crawford on August 4, 2005

The Colombians were led to believe that camaraderie between President Bush and Colombian President Uribe would lead to a better trade deal for Bogotá. But according to [an] article from Colombia's El Tiempo newspaper, it hasn't, and the Colombians are not only disappointed, they fell mistreated and betrayed.
The negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between Colombia and the United States have resulted in disappointments for our country, and have left us with an important lesson that we ought not forget: the United States government has no friends. Perhaps occasional allies or partners with common interests or problems.

Events of the last few years have shown us this. They impose their will on their friends as much as they do on their enemies.

The only things we have gotten are extreme positions, indifference to our poverty, and unilateral and arrogant demands that sooner or later, we are going to have to accept. This is because in order to negotiate equitably with the United States, we are to be required to adopt economic institutions and practices that we are very far from having.

Is our "friend" a government whose only interest is for us to help them resolve their problems of drug consumption, with no concern for our future? Has it been worth it - the immense ecological damage to our forests, our air, our ecosystems resulting from the spraying of our fields with herbicides, so that in return, the Washington negotiators could respond to our concerns about our agricultural industry with the indolence and indifference that they have shown?

Is the very low buying power of the huge majority of our countrymen of any concern to the White House, the Commerce Secretary, or Mrs. Regina Vargo [Chief U.S. Trade Negotiator].

Of course not.

For the United States, business with Colombia represents scarcely 0.5% of their international commerce, while for us it represents almost 50% of our foreign trade. Does our country not deserve favorable treatment from a treaty which can mean true economic growth, and whose consequences may offer our poorest and neediest people the chance of living by way of lawful occupations?

I think we not only deserve this, we have the right to demand it.

But Mr. Bush no longer has friends.

The reassertion of ‘moral values’ propelled George Bush back into the White House, but bitter divisions now pose serious problems for America. Can the differences between the Christian right and progressives ever be healed?

In Washington there’s no reason to struggle to find the words that express the pain and hopes of a nation divided. At the Lincoln Memorial, to the right of the large, white marbled sculpture of the seated former president, all you need is carved clear and high across a vast stone wall. The chiselled words are those of Abraham Lincoln. In his Second Inaugural Address as president, he tried to heal the disunited states of America, ripped apart by civil war, where north and south both believed God was on their side. Lincoln’s God was neutral and he believed it strange that divine intervention was called upon in a time of war.

George W Bush is a member of a privileged political dynasty background, with an expensive Ivy League education and family money that bailed him out during his years of financial failure. Bush and his [political] strategists have no problem claiming God is on their side. And neither does half of the American electorate.

The Approximate Extent of the U.S. Bible Belt

Like Lincoln, he faces a dangerously divided nation. On one side is a traditional church-going Republican electorate, mostly of rural, mid-west and southern states whose conservative Christian values are shaped as much by pulpit and prayer book as by factional politics. On the other side, the supposedly informed, internationally aware, secular Democrats; the party of the urban Pacific and northeast Atlantic states.

Karl Rove, the “architect” of Bush’s campaign strategy, designed the assault on the second term based on the assumption of an electorate polarised on values. There was no attempt to move to the centre, no mention of compromise. The United States was already a divided nation. Frightened and ill-informed conservatives retreated to their closed communities, to their churches, to their prayers, to their core values.

Elsewhere in Ohio, other forces aided Bush: Ohio’s Republican secretary of state, Kenneth Blackwell, an elected official also in charge of election rules that seemed to change from day to day.

Although Bush [said he'd] immediately “reach out to everyone who shares our goals”, the reality is that half of the United States [dreaded] what [came] and the half who voted for Bush’s “moral values” might [still] not understand the consequences of his economic values.
The emergency tax policies of the first term will be made permanent, cuts that made the richest 1% of citizens richer and which increased the tax burden on the average earner. Now the burden on wage earners is set to increase in an “neoconomist” agenda that seeks to release savings, dividends and stocks earnings from tax altogether. The underlying belief? Bush said “70% of new jobs in America are created by small businesses. I understand that”.
He will also understand that those in line to benefit most from such “tax reforms” are chief executives, financial sophisticates, industry titans, heirs and heiresses, Wall Street wizards.
And routine mundane tax payments to the US Treasury? This will come from the remaining constituency of wage-earning breadwinners. According to Daniel Altman, the author of a new text on neoconomics, the plan is “a recipe for the worst kind of social unrest that can make an economy stagger, stagnate or worse”. The worse, for Altman, is a “riotous manifestation of anticapitalist sentiment.”

It isn't just the money that divides us - but the attitudes that the money affords:

America's sense of itself as one nation is one of its greatest strengths. But it is currently being put to a test it has not faced at any time since the Vietnam war. The mood of the coming months will be dominated not by reconciliation but by the desire for revenge.

"Never in our history have we ever had a partisan balance across the country as even as this," says Norman Ornstein, a political scholar at the American Enterprise Institute. It is the mutual incomprehension of two Americas which are finding it increasingly difficult to live as neighbours. Both sides intensely believe that they speak for the majority.

They are both wrong.

The sheer animus of the two sides can be fully understood only as an attempt by one side to purge America of the Clinton culture, and by the other to die in the last ditch rather than surrender to the party of Kenneth Starr, the special counsel whose investigations led to the impeachment of the president.

This is not primarily a division between social and economic classes, although the Republicans remain the party of the richest Americans and the Democrats are still the party of the poorest. It is a fluid moral and cultural divide, with many cross-currents. Inevitably, it is a divide that vividly recreates the fault lines of the Clinton impeachment crisis of 1998-99. That event, so widely seen as mere entertainment by the rest of the world, was always treated more seriously by Americans. It may even be right to call it the defining cultural event of today's United States.

Mr Bush's forces believe that the eight years of Democratic rule in the White House are a historical aberration and that the natural order is about to be re-established. Mr Bush speaks for culturally conservative America. He speaks for most men, for a majority of whites, for the rural heartlands, for moral conservatives, for the military, for angry guys and for country and western music.

This leaves out "most women, black Americans and the other racial minorities, cities, moral liberals, dissenters, those for taking a relaxed view and for rock and roll."

The stage is clearly set for a division of the nation, and it could come about. For instance, Blue State California would be as high as the seventh-largest economy in the world if we were an independent nation. There are several political parties seeking to separate all, or part - or less - of the state from the rest of the US.

But the question is: are we ready to take on antagonistic rivalries with those who used to be fellow citizens? Right now, I would have to say no, but history - even our own - clearly demonstrates that when a group of people feel that they have had enough, they pull away and set out on their own path. This usually causes major conflict (the Czech-Slovak separation being something of an exception), and I'm sure that it would be no different here. After all, there are LOTS of guns in the land - at least 192 million in 1994, and 230 million in 1997.

[Before you Second Amendment types get going, I am expressly NOT talking about confiscation or any of your other nightmare fears here, so let's not go there.]

Frankly, I still believe that this country has room for all of us, no matter what the Red Staters seem to believe. I still see the nation as looking something like this:

and fear it could end up looking like this:

Which would you choose?


The 'Disunited States of America', November 4, 2005 El Comercio - Original Article (Spanish) By Andrés Oppenheimer, Translated by Richard Hauenstein

The United States Government 'Has No Friends', November 30, 2005 Original Article (Spanish) By Camilo Durán Casas, Translated By Richard Hauenstein

The Disunited States Of America

The disunited states of America

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