About halfway through the Civil War of Northern Aggression Between the States, the Mississippi county where I would be born some  90 years later seceded from the Confederacy. A rebel Rebel by the name of Newton “Newt” Knight declared Jones County the “Free State of Jones” and said, in effect, “We don’t want no part of this nasty conflict, so no matter whether you’re wearing grey or blue, you enter at your peril.”

I have been feeling kind of Newtonian since the election on Nov. 2. I’m thinking the little blue county where I now live should declare itself the “Free State of Athens-Clarke” and secede from big red Georgia.

Sure, we would be geographically isolated and surrounded by unfriendly forces, sort of like West Berlin during the Cold War. And yes, we would probably require airlifts from time to time from New York or Massachusetts or some other progressive state. We might even need CARE packages from France – movies for Cine and some good cheeses. But we do grow a bit of food here, much of it wholesomely organic, and there’s firewood and we have lots of bikes and paths to ride them on. We could get by.

And frankly, it’s hard to see what other recourse we have.

Thanks to Paul Broun’s family name and some ingenious gerrymandering, we are going to be represented in Congress once again by a medical doctor who became known during his rookie term mainly for yelping about the alleged evils of “Obamacare,” wasting constituents’ taxes on self-serving mailings, and advocating on behalf of trophy hunters who would like to bring home the heads of polar bears they shot way up north.

Meanwhile, the running of the state at large has been placed entirely in the hands of members of the party whose most cherished policies – neuter government watchdogs, trust big corporations to police themselves – are primary causes of the economic meltdown from which we are very, very slowly recovering.  These are also the people who said little, if anything, in protest of an eight-year Republican presidency during which we launched two unfunded, debt-inflating, high-casualty wars but went ballistic about government overreach and spending when a new President attempted to provide health care for poor Americans.

The hypocrisy of this in a supposedly Christian state in a supposedly Christian nation is just too much. We here in Athens-Clarke should consider withdrawing.

Republicans like Sam Olens, Georgia’s attorney general-elect, should easily be able to understand this secessionist urge. His avowed determination to repeal the historic health-care bill that the Democratic-controlled Congress passed is rooted in a belief that the Constitution doesn’t permit the federal government to make states do what they don’t want to do.

Those who believe so strongly in states’ rights surely ought to have it in them to honor counties’ rights as well – and let us go. They talk about how letting people buy health insurance across state lines would be a better way to hold down medical costs. Then it should be OK with them for a county like Athens-Clarke to reach across those arbitrary lines and affiliate with a different, more progressive state – say, Oregon – or just be an island unto itself.

You well may ask what would become of Republicans who live in Athens-Clarke after the secession. They would have three options: go blue, move someplace redder, or secede themselves. By the latter, I mean they could just declare their homes and lots independent, sovereign entities and make their own rules. This whole old-fashioned notion of citizenship as a cooperative endeavor – of recognizing the dividends of sacrificing for the good of a larger community — is breaking down anyway.

So let the secession begin. I suggest we start a new currency, drop the dollar in favor of, oh, say the r.e.m. Or we could just make those UGA Bulldog Bucks the official coin of the realm.

Anybody got an idea for a flag?

###
Noel Holston

Noel Holston

Noel Holston, originally from Laurel, Miss., is a freelance journalist, songwriter, storyteller and actor who lives in Athens, Ga., with his wife, singer-songwriter Marty Winkler. In a previous life, he was the TV critic at Newsday in New York and, before that, a critic and feature writer for the Minneapolis Star Tribune and The Orlando Sentinel.