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A Fresh Start

Instead of secession, let's hope for success.

 

For those of you who enjoy the benefits of Social Security, Medicare or Medicaid, the US Postal Service, food safety inspections, national parks and interstate highways, not to mention the boost New Mexico gets from Sandia Labs and military bases, there's good news: Apparently New Mexico will not be seceding from the United States of America.

The response of many voters disgruntled by the results of November's presidential election resembled that of a spoiled child when a game doesn't go his way: take the ball and go home. Rather than hope for the best with this month's second inauguration of President Barack Obama, some Americans signed petitions to secede from the union.

Not surprisingly, our neighbors in Texas led the way, with nearly 100,000 secessionist signatures in the first week after Obama's re-election. Ironically, among the other states most gung-ho to jettison the federal government were two that rank in the top 10 in receiving the most federal monies per dollar of taxes: Alabama and Louisiana (see "Freeloaders for Fiscal Austerity," Editor's Notebook, April 2012).

New Mexico secessionists, perhaps aware that the Land of Enchantment tops that list of federal bang-for-your-buck at $2.02 in benefits per tax dollar sent to Washington, have been less numerous — and many petition-signers don't even live here. According to the Santa Fe Reporter, New Mexico's secession petition was filed online with the White House on Nov. 12 by a "Gabriel V" from New Braunfels, Texas. By the Dec. 12 deadline, only a little over 5,000 people had signed, far short of the 25,000 goal that would have triggered a response from the White House. (Presumably the official response would have been something along the lines of, "Grow up.") By the Reporter's count, however, only about 10% of those signers who listed their state of residence actually were New Mexicans. Some 300 Texans signed the petition. (They should perhaps mind their own business, which might start by electing a governor who's not a national joke.)

It might be a point of pride that New Mexicans, by and large, are reacting to the recent election more maturely — not to mention more patriotically. This "take your ball and go home" attitude is not, after all, how democracy is supposed to work. Even after George W. Bush's contested (to put it politely) victory over Al Gore in 2000, when Gore actually won more popular votes, most patriotic Americans got over it and came together to hope that Bush would succeed — for the good of the country. It's puzzling why such a sentiment seems harder to come by for a few after Obama's much more decisive 2012 victory; let's just say the likeliest explanation is troubling, and leave it at that.

 

Like Obama or not, you're free to disagree with his policies and vote to change them next time. In the meantime, though, he is president of all Americans, even those who think he's leading the nation on a disastrously wrong course.

If you are among that number, here's a suggestion — or perhaps a plea: Suspend judgment for now, as Obama again takes the oath of office on Jan. 21. Wish him well and hope that, despite your convictions otherwise, his policies turn out to be the best for the country. At a minimum, pray that he continues to keep the country safe. After all, Barack Obama will never stand for election again. For good or ill, we're stuck with him; he's the only president we've got, unless that secession bandwagon picks up speed mighty fast.

Those who supported Obama with such enthusiasm in 2008 have experienced some disappointment, too. The economy proved to be in a far deeper hole than most people thought, and recovery has taken longer and been more painful. Supporters' expectations for "hope and change" have been dashed against the entrenched partisanship of Washington, DC. Those who saw in Obama another FDR would now be thrilled if he turned out to be simply another Bill Clinton, minus the personal failings.

But hope — if not for revolutionary change, then simply for the best — is all we have for the next four years. Let us try to spend that time assuming that even those with whom we most fervently disagree nonetheless likewise are patriots who think their ideas (misguided though they may seem to us) would move America in the right direction. Let us proceed as though the nation's welfare — and not their own — is uppermost in the thoughts of those with whom we disagree. Rather than seeing each other as "moochers" and "vultures," let us all try, if only for a moment in history, to be first and foremost Americans and citizens of the world.

Right or left, red or blue, we could do worse than to recall the words of another American president who took the oath a second time nearly 150 years ago. Abraham Lincoln urged a nation then riven by real secession, not the pouting of sore losers: "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

Happy new year. Happy new beginning.

 

 

David A. Fryxell is editor of Desert Exposure.

 

 


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