Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Secession Silliness

One of the things that people spend a lot of time doing in politics is coming up with reasons to think one's opponents crazy or wicked. About four years ago, we had people making a point of exercising their right to open carry in those states that allow it, while holding quiet protests against creeping "socialism" and such. A surprising number of my more left leaning friends assured me with utter seriousness that there was a rising tide of right wing violence and that they were sure that Obama would be assassinated well before the 2012 election.

This time around the flavor of the moment is secession. The enabling factor for this is that the Obama White House has created a feature on the White House website which allows people to create online petitions. If the petition receives 25,000 "signatures" (basically, online "likes") then the petition receives an official response from the president. Occasionally this is used to express feelings about real issues, and when petitions objecting to the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect IP Act (PIPA) gained large numbers of signatures from online activists. However, the feature also lends itself to silliness and grandstanding, which is pretty much what the current craze for secession petitions is. Brandon of Siris discusses this much more amusingly than I could:
Secession petitions filed at the White House's "We the People" site have somehow become major news, thus leaving completely unremarked other important petitions like the recently expired petition asking the President to dance the hokey-pokey, or the current one asking him to attend a party or else drink a beer with Drew Curtis, or the one demanding that he outlaw offensive comments about prophets of major religions. A few points of note:

(1) It is quite obvious that the point of the petitions (from all fifty states by now) is simply to force the White House into the embarrassing position of having to give a public response explaining why states should not secede. This is not a 'secession movement'; it's a prank.

(2) Texas leads the pack, by far, on signatures for a secession petition, so it's perhaps worth pointing out for any Yankees in the audience that the obvious reason why it's so far ahead of other secession petitions is that Texans are signing it in order to make sure that Texas comes in first when it comes to secession petitions. This is what Texans do. If, for instance, you were to go to any random place in Texas and start asking people whether they thought Texas should secede, you would have a significant number of people who would say 'Yes' for no other reason than to guarantee that there would be lots of 'Yes' answers to your question. (You would also have a significant number of people who would say 'Yes' because they thought it was a stupid question deserving a stupid answer. That's another thing Texans do: answer questions they regard as stupid with answers they regard as stupid, and then laugh at you when you go away taking them seriously.)

There is, of course, no major secession movement in Texas, and hasn't been in ages. Secession in Texas is a vocabulary and game, not a movement, and is a (deliberately) bombastic way of talking about the distinctiveness of the state. Likewise, when you are in Texas and overhear someone saying that someone should be shot, or that they will be beating someone to death shortly, you can generally assume that they are engaging in Texas hyperbole for 'So-and-so is completely wrong and starting to annoy me.' Deliberately bombastic hyperbole is also something Texans do. And, what is more, one reason Texans like talking about secession is that it elicits hilariously funny reactions from non-Texans who aren't in on the game.

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