One of the more perplexing aspects of American politics is the way conservatives, especially Southern conservatives, are somehow allowed to cast themselves as our nation's true bona-fide dyed in the wool patriots, while at the same time glorifying a war of secession that almost tore the country in two. And you needn't spend much time down South to see symbols of secession plastered on walls, t-shirts, and even hanging from the flagpoles of state capitol buildings.
It almost seems that, just as left leaning college kids all seem to have their flirtation with Trotskyism at some point in the college career, right-leaning Southern kids all go through a neo-secessionist or neo-confederate phase. But whereas the lefties eventually move on, young conservatives never fully abandon their youthful dalliance with radical right-wing politics. Instead, they grow up, run for office, and once elected pass bills recognizing and celebrating Confederate History Month.
Now, Alaska was almost 100 years from being a state when the Civil War was fought, but nonetheless, secessionist movements exist there, too. And wouldn't you know it, our friend Governor Sarah Palin is associated with one. As the L.A. Times reports:
Tonight, Sarah Palin will be nominated as the Republican Party's choice for vice president of the United States.Palin, herself claims to never have registered with the party (though her claims are disputed by the Party's Vice Chairman). Nonetheless, a videotaped address she prepared for the Independence Party Convention is a cause for some concern. In her address, Palin is quick to highlight points of agreement between herself and the goals of the Alaska Independence Party, instructs its members to "keep up the good work," and perhaps most tellingly, declares optimistically that Alaska might one day become a "self-sufficient state.":
But back home, she has cheered the work of a tiny party that long has pushed for a statewide vote on whether Alaska should secede from those same United States. And her husband, Todd, was a member of the party for seven years.
"Keep up the good work," Sarah Palin told members of the Alaskan Independence Party in a videotaped speech to their convention six months ago in Fairbanks. She wished the party luck on what she called its "inspiring convention."
The Alaskan Independence Party, founded in 1978, initially promoted "the Alaskan independence movement." But now, according to its website, "its primary goal is merely a vote on secession."
I don't think can recall the governor of a U.S. state declaring his intention to see that state become "self-sufficient." If anything, that sounds like the sort of rhetoric you'd expect from Fidel Castro or Hugo Chavez. Was Palin being sincere? Was she merely pandering to the members of a fringe secessionist movement? Either way it's a pretty troubling tape.
In the end, I don't expect much to come of this issue, mostly due to the double standard that pervades our political discourse as well as our media. Fox News commenters will continue to harp on Michelle Obama's off the cuff declaration that her husband's nomination was the first time she felt truly proud to be an American, while completely ignoring the fact that the husband of the Republican party's Vice Presidential nominee is a member of a political party that expresses open disdain for his home state's membership in these United States of America. After all, for the past 50 years the Media has felt no need to point to the contradiction inherent in claims of patriotism that coexist alongside sentimental attachments to the one ideology that nearly destroyed our great experiment in Democracy 140 years ago.
And so, I leave you with one last thought... from someone who spent a great deal of time fighting against the very dangerous and irresponsible ideas that Palin seems to view sympathetically... a Republican, no less:
Four score and seven years ago our fathers brought forth on this continent, a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal.
Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting place for those who here gave their lives that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this.
But, in a larger sense, we can not dedicate -- we can not consecrate -- we can not hallow -- this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it, far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us -- that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they gave the last full measure of devotion -- that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain -- that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom -- and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.