opinion by Scott Shackelford
Scott Shackelford is a former editorial page editor for a Northwest Arkansas newspaper. He lives in Fayetteville.
Editor's note: Opinions, commentary and other essays posted in this space are wholly the view of the author(s). They may not represent the opinion of the owners of The City Wire.
Talk of secession has returned.
Is that because people enjoy acting like children, so upset about certain, recent election results that they prefer to engage in la-la land wishes possessing zero currency since the idea of competent discussions of the problems of the current age and reaching legitimate compromise is simply beyond the pale?
Do they fail to sufficiently appreciate all the good our nation offers? Or is the idiocy that too often passes for thought/culture on our airwaves actually melting people’s brains and reducing public dialogue to the lowest common denominator?
I would do my best to mock online efforts at secession, specifically the online petition filed recently with the White House that seeks Arkansas’ formal separation from the United States. It is much easier to click “like” and agree with such nonsense when you’re sitting in pajamas behind your keyboard at home than to stand on a soapbox in a public square and declare the supposed sensibilities encompassing such strange sentiments.
And yet state representatives have actually felt the need to respond to this preposterous effort. Clearly, some among us aren’t joking. They are fed up with the direction of our federal government, and they want someone – anyone – to listen to their grievances.
And we have.
That’s what this month’s elections were all about. And the results? That America remains a divided country. Until that fundamental fact changes, action will require compromise, which is just as our Founding Fathers hoped it would be.
The framers hoped major changes would come slowly – if much too slowly for the die-hards on either side of the American landscape. And when change does arrive (whether it be in the form of historic legislation, a work of art that challenges preconceived notions, or even an African-American U.S. president) some of us act as if we don’t know how to react. Some cheer the headlines. Other scramble for Confederate flags to run up their flagpoles.
Maybe this helps explain why so many of us love sports. Sure, they offer us by turn excitement and achievement – but most importantly, a deft combination of clearly defined rules and unequivocally defined outcomes. Heck, we treat athletes like conquering heroes just returned from battle, even decades after the fact.
These wonderful beings – complete strangers but for the numbers adorning their backsides – validate our opinions and world views with the thwack of a bat or the flick of a wrist. We love the details, but really, it’s the simplicity, the easy-to-comprehend, understanding nature of sport (or heck, our children’s schoolhouse plays, a good book, or any of life’s most basic joys) that keeps even those Cubs fans among us coming back for more.
All of us can appreciate the sinking feeling that life and the world as we know it is going away, and the truth is that we can only hide out in our sandlots, stadiums or fictionalized, make-believe worlds for so long.
But change – even big, historic change, doesn’t have to be scary. People once thought passage of the 13th Amendment, and the 19th Amendment, were frightening notions. Now we consider them revolutionary just acts that were long overdue. All of which is to say that change needn’t be so hard to accept if we’re willing to acknowledge that the opposition isn’t out to destroy life but merely to enhance it for millions of people. What’s wrong with that?
Nearly half the voting public elected earlier this month to throw President Obama out of office. If polls are to be believed, a sluggish economy and implementation of the Affordable Care Act were the key reasons. But the U.S. economy is steadily coming around, and economists agree it will continue to do so over the next four years – assuming Congress gets its act together which is no small if.
Meanwhile, the president’s health care plan promises to bring health insurance to a quarter million Arkansans in the near future, and to lower costs while saving lives here and nationwide. Aside from the inflammatory talk GOP candidates have stoked in recent years, where are the great negatives? Is President Obama’s plan so menacing that newly elected Republican majorities in the Arkansas General Assembly will reject it outright when they meet in session? The answer is no.
Why secession? Do people really mean they would prefer to live somewhere other than the United States?
No, they just want Barack Obama and his “change” theories to go away. Except the president is offering to accomplish an overhaul of the tax code and immigration reform (both of which are long overdue) in his second term. Those sound like good things. And he is asking that the nation’s wealthiest citizens do more to help America pay its bills, whether via a repeal of the Bush tax cuts or the loss of several favored tax deductions. Again, what is so evil about everyone paying their fair share?
All this talk of secession is little more than crying about the finish to a close game. So the Republican candidate didn’t win the election this time. Big deal. Democrats have lost close elections before, but I don’t recall Al Gore supporters threatening secession.
Everyone who loves the rule of law appreciates that there will be another election in four years, and conservative arguments may very well prove a winning formula. Before that, the GOP may make big gains in 2014 if the White House and Senate Democrats overplay their current hand. Again, time will tell.
What I do know is that more sensibility, and more big-picture thinking about local, state and national government – and, in general, calm – would be nice. Our times are not as troubled as a relative handful of want-to-be secessionists might have you believe, and yet our culture is curiously flawed in a million different ways.
But one of those problems is not the person in the Oval Office. One of these days (maybe no day soon) we are going to look back at the current occupant of the White House and be proud of his strong leadership and weighty accomplishments.