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Nov 24 2008

State of Anxiety

There are many bridges and tunnels leading out of the familiar landmarks of Manhattan, the symbol of America that everyone knows. They lead out to the Bronx, or to New Jersey, and from there on out to Massachusetts and Pennsylvania, down to Florida or all the way to far-off Idaho or California. There are maps to all those places, Pictures. Tour guides. There are no surprises.

But if you leave New York at dawn or at dusk, when the night and day are too busy to notice your passing, you may end up somewhere else. If you don’t leave through the big, visible bridges or the well-monitored tunnels, you can find your way out to an entirely different America. An America of the almost-was and the might-have-been.

Go up north to the Republic of Madawaska, where the inhabitants refused the terms of the Treaty of Paris which put them in Canadian New Brunswick, preferring to be a US State adjacent to Maine. Nearby, between Vermont and New Hampshire, the Republic of Indian Stream had an organized, independent government in the late-1700’s, elected by a constituency of 300. Go down through Westsylvania, which was eventually admitted to the union as West Virginia, and further down south to Alabama and Tennessee where the Union-loyalist states of Winston and Nickajack seceded from the Confederate Secession and joined the Union army, declaring themselves free states deep in the slave-owning south.

Then kick it up a notch. Go up to Lake Michigan, where the Strangist Mormons split off the main branch and established the Kingdom of Beaver Isle. Between Montana and Wyoming cowboys opposed to Roosevelt’s New Deal established the State of Absaroka to preserve economic independence. Drive down through Nevada to the Cimarron Territory, where miners declared independence in their mountains, to the State of Deseret, built on rigorous Mormon beliefs. Down to the Long Republic, which can’t decide whether it secedes from Mexico or the US, and the State of Sequoya, a Native American state between Oklahoma and Kansas.

Many more states fill this shadowy Union. The states of Jefferson, Franklin and Lincoln all vie for existence. West Florida and North Virginia consider their own secession, while Comancheria, Lenapehoking and Aztlan would split from the US along ethnic lines. And above all, the Confederate States of America still loom large above the old South, perpetuating its myths and legends and the dream of a twin empire to the United States.

Each of these offers a vision of a different America. An America of a small US surrounded by sovereign Indian countries, or of independent Jeffersonian states sick of the Federalist government, or of a Mormon monarchy of religious fanatics. All these islands of relative stability in the chaos of cultures, races and religions that is the United States of America, both real and imagined. Each of these visions could spawn stories, songs, alternate histories and variations on American themes through different glasses. Could we have had a Mormon Indiana Jones? A slave-owning Batman? Everything is possible.

3 תגובות

3 תגובות לפוסט “State of Anxiety”

  1. meme_rבתאריך 24 Nov 2008 בשעה 21:08

    You know what this begs for, right?

    Links.
    Spare yours readers the trouble of googling.
    Especially since these are all things you can find in Wikipedia, you know.

  2. ygurvitzבתאריך 25 Nov 2008 בשעה 08:27

    Re: You know what this begs for, right?

    Wow!

  3. yggdrasilבתאריך 25 Nov 2008 בשעה 09:14

    Re: You know what this begs for, right?

    au contraire. If I provided all the wikipedia links to all those would-be states, people would see how boring most of them are. Whether they were started as a joke, existed for a week or were shot down repeatedly in Congress. This way, they remain as possible ideas that could be, rather than dead ideas that history has already passed by.

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