The state of Alabama has discovered a sneaky way to outlaw abortion, even though Roe v. Wade is the law and will certainly remain so regardless of whether that idiot Romney ousts that liar Obama in November. The abortion argument, on the federal level, is long over with.
But Alabama has passed a law requiring any doctor who wishes to perform an abortion to be admitted to practice at one of the state’s hospitals. And it turns out that none of the four doctors in the state who do perform abortions have such hospital status.
A fellow internet columnist, Dr. Lenny, wrote to me this morning concerning one of my recent scrawls and referenced the presently mythical State of Jefferson. For those who have not yet heard of it, Jefferson is the name taken by northwest denizens who dream of the great day when they can detach from the rest of Oregon and California, forming their own entity.
In 1941, there was a real movement to do this. Several Oregon and California counties voted to secede from their respective states and join together. The mayor of Port Orford, Oregon, one Gilbert Gable, proposed that Curry, Josephine, Klamath and Jackson should join with California’s Del Norte, Siskiyou, and Modoc counties, given that the residents of this area weren’t getting decent representation in the halls of government in their respective states.
Many people saw it as a ridiculous notion, not because it was a bad idea but because it would legally require the agreement of the legislatures of both states as well as ratification of the federal Congress. None of those bodies would ever consent. For one thing, the idea that two more Senators would be elected was seen as diluting the power of the ones already stuffing themselves on the public’s dough in Washington.
But some folks took it seriously. Meetings were held. A state flag was designed. The name ‘Jefferson’ was adopted after broad consideration of others, including Bonanza and Discontent. In California, Trinity County endorsed the new state, joining with the other four. Shasta and Lassen gave it serious consideration. In Oregon, on November 27, 1941, a group of residents carrying hunting rifles stopped traffic on Highway 99 south of Yreka, passed out copies of a Proclamation of Independence, and declared that Jefferson was in “patriotic rebellion” against Oregon and California.
It’s hard to say where the movement might have gone, but events overtook it. Mayor Gable died on December 2, and several days later the Japanese attacked Pearl Harbor.
There remains today a sensibility which dreams of Jefferson. Residual traces of the original movement are commemorated by highway markers, scenic overlooks, and a public radio station. People such as Dr. Lenny still believe in it. I’ve dreamed worse dreams and so have you.
I realize that the Alabama example is an odd one. After all, finding a way to evade the federal law on abortion does not exactly recommend Alabama as a leader in any fight for regaining freedom in America. If those guys could figure out a way to reinstate slavery, they’d be interested. Face it, intelligence is not widely available in some parts of the country.
But in a way, I am encouraged by those boneheads.
Like you, I am aware of the undeniable fact that the banks run the bleeding world. All that is required to understand this simple reality is that one pays attention to events outside one’s front door. Even Senator Durbin’s rather amazing admission that “the banks run this town (Washington, D.C.)” is unneeded in view of the news.
For example, this morning’s paper alerted us to the agreement in Brussels reached “(a)fter an all-night bargaining” among “European leaders” to “use the continent’s bailout fund to funnel money directly to struggling banks...”
Why is this so familiar? Why are we not even shocked?
During the 2008 presidential election, Barack Obama got himself into trouble by remarking, in an aside at what he thought was a private fund-raising event, that some Americans took comfort in clinging to their ‘guns and religion.’ Seems to me that in 2012 there are quite a few Americans taking some comfort in clinging to a fantasy that Barack Obama is ‘progressive’ or even a decent man whose determination to do the ‘right thing’ is thwarted at every turn by the evil Republicans.
We cling to fantasies because life is hard and we’ve got to cling to something. If we’re carrying anything more advanced than the brain of a reptile inside our craniums –– or is it ‘crania’? –– we know that the banks and other corporate empires run the world, which includes the United States. We know that the Congress is corrupt and probably can’t be redeemed because only millionaires need apply. We know that regulatory bodies have been so badly compromised they can’t perform their jobs. We know that the wealthy are getting wealthier, thanks to tax deals, offshore bank accounts, and various money laundering schemes we barely comprehend. We know that Obama, like his predecessors, at least since 1980, is merely a broker for the military-industrial complex.
The federal system has utterly failed but we have no idea what to do about it.
And so we cling to the Obama fantasy if we’re ‘liberals’ and to the ‘tea party’ (or Ayn Rand) fantasy if we’re conservative. The only alternative seems to be pitching ourselves off the bridge.
But maybe not.
Have you noticed: everywhere you turn in America, more and more, local, regional, and state governments are getting pissed off at the feds. Just the other day, the Supreme Court told Montana that its rules against corporations buying its legislators are unconstitutional. California passed a humane medical marijuana law but, despite promises, Obama and his cops have gone after dispensaries and closed many down. From sea to shining sea, local ideas about government have been trampled by a federalism that nobody can stop.
According to most online sources, the State of Jefferson is being revived these days, apparently spurred by right-wing disenchantment with perceived government control by ‘liberals’. But the problem is with structure and not ideology. When the government is spying on people and peering into bedroom windows, the right wing in general has no problem with it; when it’s forcing people to buy insurance they can’t afford, the left thinks it’s a great advance for universal health care.
In the 1960s, the left liked a powerful federal government because it could enforce integration and promote racial equality. In the 1980s –– despite protestations to the contrary –– the right liked federal power because Reagan was at the helm and he could wipe out local attempts at environmental protection and workplace safety, flatten unions and screw the air traffic controllers.
There was a time in America when the use of federal power was a reasonable mechanism assisting in the evolution of a fair and just society. But as in all societies, there were and are people interested in manipulating the levers for their own purposes, and in the U.S. these people have infiltrated and compromised the entire federal power structure.
Today, the FCC doesn’t protect the airwaves for the people. It protects them from the people. The FDA doesn’t regulate food safety, it guarantees that those who adulterate food are safe from troublesome regulation.
Some people can’t believe I’m still optimistic about the planet, even America. I agree it’s not a short-term deal. The human race, pretty embarrassing. My old friend Martin Shepard in New York thinks humans have made no progress at all in thousands of years; we dress a little better and know how to clean utensils. We have dentists and people who can repair Chevrolets. But he thinks we’re just as savage, just as creepy and unredeemable. Of course, Marty was a shrink years ago.
Friend of my daughter, Kenneth Johnson, just published a book about life, mostly his, and the travel from a life of guns, robberies, life as a pimp. He sees things pretty deeply now and his book, The Last Hustle, is a wonder of intelligence and grace. He’s changed over the years, no question.
I’ve changed, too, and I think for the better. I’ve learned a little, maybe not much but something. I’m slow, sort of like the human race. I fuck up, no way around it. But I’m better.
What that tells me, my daughter’s friend and my experience and what I’ve seen in others I’ve known, change and redemption, is that there’s hope for the human race. We’ve got a chance. So maybe we can learn a way around this monster we’ve created, this American system which grinds people under its feet, which commits crimes against its own people. Not by fighting it with its own weapons, not by trying to take that system on its own terms, but by slipping past it, sliding around it, changing it despite itself.
The State of Jefferson exists because it lives in our minds. So, too, did Woodstock Nation once, real and shining and possible, just around the next corner. We can create a better world if we dream it hard enough and find whatever inspiration we can from the small, sweet blows against the empire struck from the towns and cities and communities, left or right, doesn’t matter.
So, thank you, Dr. Lenny, for the reminder, and Jessica for your friend’s astonishing book, and the rest of you out there who have moved through time and space to be here right now.
We’ve got a lot of work to do, so get to it. Saddle up.