Catalonia to Cascadia
Since last November many of us in many places in the US have heightened dreams of secession, of new nation-states, new sovereignty. It is true that many of us have had less intense versions of that fantasy for decades, waxing and waning from regime to regime.
Now it’s approaching heart-attack serious.
Trump is a daily embarrassment; worse, he gets to use the fruits of our labor to carry out disgusting policies, drop the Mother of All Bombs on Afghanistan, likely pay for a cruel and retro-minded border wall with Mexico, and possibly even wage nuclear war with North Korea. He seeks to gain more personal wealth on the backs of poor people daily, he insults the victims of worsened climate disasters in the Caribbean, and is simply insufferable in his tone-deaf narcissism, adolescent braggadocio, and trailer-trash personal insults.
One of my Vermont friends sent me notice that she has joined a group there calling themselves Most Likely to Secede. Some in the Upper Great Lakes region are reviving ideas of Miniwishigan, a nation-state of the US side of the Lake Superior basin. Increasingly, Native Americans are discussing stronger sovereignty, often in broad multi-tribal coalitions.
Here in the Pacific Northwest we refer to it as Cascadia. We even have our own flag, the beautiful Douglas Fir. We envision ourselves as Washington, Oregon, and northern California. We may need to reassess if eastern Washington and eastern Oregon prove to be Trump loyalists, essentially artifacts from the racist white homeland some wished for the Pacific Northwest from time to time. Maybe we are mostly coastal. And of course there are some serious Jeffersonians in a particular part of northern California, but they may or may not be amenable to a racially, religiously, ethnically diverse and eco-friendly vision for Cascadia. Let them secede in their own way or join us with forward thinking, not backward.
So, as you may imagine, we love the serious struggle by Catalonians for their independence. They clearly want it even more than Puerto Ricans or Scots, voting to remain part of the US and the UK respectively in 2017 and 2014. Puerto Rico voted to become a state and against independence; Scotland voted to remain a junior partner in the UK. I wonder if those peoples are regretting their votes?
Gandhi once told the British (paraphrase), We would rather govern ourselves poorly than have you rule us efficiently. This is a sentiment held by many people worldwide, though when the voting chips are down, the blandishments of the hegemon often prevail. I am not suggesting that if we held a vote in Cascadia we would do as well as Catalonia, but as Trump alienates and makes us all roll our eyes and shake our heads, perhaps the potential vote is growing closer.
Of course the other North American secession movements are First Nation and Native American struggles to regain complete nation-state sovereignty, not the limited “trust relationship” sovereignty of the tribes to the US government nor the more advanced but still unsatisfactory relationship of the Anishinaabeg to the government of Canada or the provincial government of Manitoba.
The UN is a hostile environment for most secession movements since it is a composition of some 194 nation-states in a world that the anthropologists tell us used to be at least 800 distinct nations with sovereignty and their own lands, a natural world turned violently into the colonial system driven by European colonial powers for half a millennium, with new national borders crunching peoples together or splitting them apart in ways they well remember and generally regret. The UN’s members, thus, do not favor setting precedent by approving of secession when they often harbor groups who would love to rule themselves too.
Indeed, even the EU is not friendly to secession movements and said so publicly following the Catalan vote. This was a great blow and disappointment to the Catalonians who voted, some say in excess of 90 percent, for complete autonomy, independence, and separate nation-state status from Spain. Of course this picture is blotched by the Spanish police, who were ordered to prevent the independence vote, who attacked voters and injured nearly 900 of them, and who confiscated ballot boxes. How can accurate results obtain from such brutality, such a quash of indigenous democracy?
Are voters intimidated at times so severely that they simply stay away, thus compromising the results? It is hard to say with Puerto Rico, since the vote was not taken seriously by the US government and a mere 23 percent of eligible voters actually cast ballots. But in Catalonia the Spanish government was dead serious and hyper-involved, possibly deterring a hefty percentage of potential voters by beating those who showed up at the polls and by blatantly seizing ballot boxes. Still, some 42 percent of registered voters did so.
So we shall see, here and abroad. Trump’s base includes many from states that attempted to secede and became the Confederacy, and the rest of us know it. More and more, we want less and less to do with him, with them, and possibly declaring our independence, our sovereignty, is the solution.
This land is your land
I spent the last few days traveling across the country to North Dakota to join others in supporting a gentle man who tried to help everyone. For that he was convicted of several crimes and will be heading to a North Dakota prison.
Michael Foster was born and raised in Texas, in an oil family. His crime in North Dakota was turning off the Keystone pipeline in a symbolic but real call to all of us to do what we can to stop global climate chaos.
That North Dakota valve turn was one of five similar actions last October—two women, three men, five valves on lines in Washington state, Montana, North Dakota, and Minnesota, all done in resonance with the Break Free from Fossil Fuels campaign.
We see the buck-naked consequences of paying no attention to our oil consumption; Harvey drowns Houston, fires rip through the West, every hurricane is more intense than it otherwise would be, droughts last longer, lakes are drying up, the seas are rising and surging, and with fracking even earthquakes are no longer a pure act of God. Most previously natural disasters are now unnatural disasters, made worse by our hand more than the hand of God or Mother Nature.
The Trump regime is doing worse than nothing; they are exacerbating the problem by rolling back the tepid regulations the Obama administration brought to bear. Trump yanks the US out of a world agreement to fix this, the Paris Accords. He gets Rick “Never-met-an-oil-well-I-didn’t-like” Perry as his Secretary of Energy and Scott “That-pollution-smells-like-money-to-me” Pruitt to run the Environmental Protection Agency—into the ground. Trump promises to bring back dirty coal. It is Satanic, frankly, with zero regard for the children of the world, for the generations. He’s old without any discernible conscience. Who will confront him?
Michael Foster, Leonard Higgins, Ken Ward, Emily Johnston, and Annette Klapstein will. They have.
I attended Michael’s trial as much as possible, although I couldn’t be in the room in the beginning because I was scheduled as an expert witness and we were sequestered until we testified—or until the judge disallowed us…which she did.
Michael was facing 23 years in prison on four charges. Three of us were there to provide expert testimony in three topic areas to help the judge and jury understand why Michael should be acquitted. Two of us were there to speak to different aspects of nonviolence and one was on hand to speak about the urgency of a rapid change in our general habits but a specific exam of the dirty tar sands oil that flows through the Keystone pipeline. Climatologist James Hansen is 76 years old and is the one who announced that “global warming has arrived” in 1988 when he worked as a scientist at the Goddard Space Center. Every single prediction he made then has come to pass. He is arguably the world’s top scientist in that area—certainly the most famous. He’s Trump’s age, only with a long-view conscience and integrity.
The court could not be bothered to listen to this eminent scientist, someone who could have helped the judge and jury become at least familiar with the emergency that we see unfolding all over nowadays, made much worse by the dirtiest sort of fossil fuel—tar sands oil.
The contempt for anyone coming to North Dakota to “tell us how to live” (the prosecutor’s attack on Michael, who is now from Seattle) was palpable. The judge allowed the prosecution’s expert witness, demonstrating some spectacular inconsistency and hypocrisy. As one who woke up a few times this summer to unbreathable air and everything in my town covered in forest fire ash, I say to North Dakotans, you need to fix this. We will do our part but you need to do yours. Most of us know at least one or two people in Houston, or in the Santa Rosa area, or in Miami or Puerto Rico. Are we Americans who value all other Americans or are we not?
But the prosecutors were dismissive. Hell, Foster only faces 23 years, why give him a chance to reason with jury members? Let’s not confuse them with the facts.
The trial in tiny Cavalier, North Dakota, in remote Pembina County, was heartbreaking.
The Mote in North Korea’s Eye, the Forest in the USA’s Eye
By Kary Love
Mass murder of 59 is the mote in the eye of that lone “Las Vegas” killer and we all condemn him.
Mass murder of all humanity is the forest in the eye of Donny Trump and we are called upon to salute him.
Trump has recently threatened North Korea with nuclear annihilation. The USA has thousands of nukes, NK may have 20 and a limited, if any, capacity to deliver them.
Thus, the forest in the eye of Donny Trump and the mote in the eye of NK.
This is not to say NK should have nukes, it should not. However, the need for the USA to have thousands of nukes and a $1 Trillion program to “make more and more usable nukes” is also unacceptable. At least to the people of the world.
The recent Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was signed by 122 nations on July 7, 2017. The Treaty prohibits the use, threat of use, development, possession, testing, acquisition, stockpiling and transfer of these weapons and forever stigmatizes these weapons and the nations who maintain their nuclear stockpiles.
The US along with other “nuclear powers” refused to sign the Treaty. Refusal to sign the Treaty does not mean the refusing nations are “above the law of nations” or international law. Neither Hitler nor the Japanese governments signed the Treaty that allowed their henchmen to be hanged or jailed for war crimes, crimes against peace or crimes against humanity for crimes they committed in WWII. In fact, the accused war criminals complained everything they did was legal under Hitler’s “law” and they were “just following orders.” The USA hung them anyway because the law of nations superseded Hitler’s laws.
The US did sign the treaties supporting execution of the Nazi and Tokyo war criminals. Those principles now are part of the USA’s own laws governing war and war crimes. US military and civilian commanders, including the President, as commander in chief, are subject to prosecution as war criminals, should they engage in a war of aggression (“the supreme war crimes”) or use criminal weapons such as nuclear weapons in an otherwise legal war. Such crimes still carry the death penalty.
This legal conclusion is the result of one single truth: The enemy of all humankind is death.
Nothing else. Just death.
There are only two kinds of death:
a) natural. b) homicide. Courageous scientists, doctors and nurses are fighting the former—Thank you for your service! As to the latter it has been said: “He who kills one is a criminal. He who kills millions is a hero.”
When we embrace this thinking, we contribute to the spread of the infection of death by homicide. As Sartre opined: there is no way out. We are condemned to choose. Life or death?
Either we reject homicidal heroes or we reap individual killers. The celebration of death occurs not in a vacuum, the moral fabric of the universe is all one cloth. Cleave one strand, the rest unravel. The moral fabric is unravelling. The rest is vacuity, obfuscation and avoidance.
We fear our own deaths. We mourn the deaths of those we love. But, we are not human until we resist all death. Those who protest death, who are caged for committing trespass to avoid mass murder, who mourn the death of every human and work to avoid the death of any more, to them I say, “Thank you for your service!”
To those who go to work every day “maintaining” nuclear, biological and chemical weapons, I plead, take the day off. The week, the rest of your life.
To those who pay the taxes to fund nuclear weapons, I ask, “What do you say to your children when they ask you, ‘Daddy, did you pay for the war?’” It all comes down to one, simple decision: are you on the side of life, or death?
The cancerous poison of America’s commitment to weapons of mass destruction infects our culture: we have become death worshippers as a nation. The mote in the eye of the mass murderer in Las Vegas is a reflection of the forest in the eye of Presidents and the bureaucrats who daily plan, prepare for and threaten nuclear annihilation. To paraphrase Jesus of Nazareth: He who lives by mass murder shall perish by mass murder. Is it not time to pluck the forest from our eye and help others then to remove the mote from their own? For, if we continue to sow the seeds of death, what ought we expect to reap?
Kary Love, syndicated by PeaceVoice, is a Michigan attorney whose pro bono practice for decades is frequently the trial defense of nonviolent peace protesters.
Dr. Tom H. Hastings is PeaceVoice Director.