"That which seems the height of absurdity in one generation often becomes the height of wisdom in the next." — John Stuart Mill
I feel it is important to define the cultural landscape in which I find myself writing. The recent fires and impending gubernatorial inauguration of an action hero have demanded more sense making than usual. Autumn brings with it a brisk melancholy as we prepare for winter's discontent. Change is coming, and I'm not talking about the weather. George W. Bush has brought the U.S. to a dark place, without a map. And we need to ask ourselves do we need to go along for the ride?
The question many are asking is what exactly does California owe those governing the federal bureaucracy. That question prompts others, such as: "Why not secede from a federation of states no longer serving the best interest of Californians, of any species? But such a leap forward could not be considered without a look back.. A brief history lesson is in order.
"California" came into being on June 6, 1846 when William B. Ide led the Bear Flag revolt with home-made flag bearing the likeness of a grizzly bear and the words "California Republic." Ide and 29 other settlers captured the pueblo of Sonoma and declared California independent of Mexican rule.
I'm not a constitutional scholar, but it seems to me California exists in and of itself. On November 13, 1849, when the Republic of California ratified its original constitution through a popular vote, and selected its first official representatives, they did so understanding themselves to be a sovereign state. On September 9, 1850, California was the 31st regional government to join the United States of North America.
The southern boundary had recently been decided by a rogue diplomat and his Mexican counterparts at the conclusion of the Mexican-U.S. War, (1946-1948) with Mexico ceding all territory sought by the U.S. Government except Lower California (Baja) and enough land to connect the peninsula to Mexico proper. The U.S./ Mexican border was now established from the Pacific to the Gulf of Mexico.
California decided it was in their best interest to join the fledgling federation of states.
Gold had been discovered and immigrants were pouring in from all over the world. Joining the union made sense and, in the face of it, there was little choice. Manifest destiny was in full swing, and the Stars and Stripes finally waved from sea to shining sea. Sure there were rough times, but California would ride the gold rush until San Francisco was brought to its knees by the earthquake and subsequent fires of 1906.
Say what you will, the ground is constantly shifting in Alta California. From the moment Spanish missionaries entered the verdant coastal region of what we now call California, life has been a roller coaster ride of boom and bust, drought and deliverance. The volatility of our natural environment has shaped an independent culture unlike anywhere else in the world.
Somehow our socially liberal, fiscally conservative mindset has allowed the Republic to grow way beyond its means. With growth has come an educated and self-sufficient populace, which values property rights and environmental sustainability equally. If due diligence were done, final analysis would show the U.S. government benefits more from California than California benefits from it's association with the Federal Government.
Why then, I ask, half knowing the reason, do we continue to allow the federal government to pillage our communities? We are now the fifth largest economy in the world. If we want to protect that status, some autonomy must be demanded by Sacramento. Environmental policy is a good place to start. Disregard for Californian environmental standards should no longer be tolerated.
California suing the federal government to protect stricter standards is the most recent example of how ecological protection can be a vital step towards independence. A strong state government would no longer tolerate Federal control over biological elements such as forests and grassland, mineral extraction, fisheries, and waterways. If a vote was taken tomorrow, Californians would choose to grant giant sequoias protected species status, this could not be said for the voters of Mississippi, Utah, or Texas.
It's time for the people of California to rediscover our history. Are there lessons to be learned? Born of revolt, perhaps it is time to dust off that option and look to declaring independence from a distant government of imposed taxes and little representation.
Personally? I'm preparing for the revolution one history lesson at a time.