None of the above.
Her brother had called her asking her opinion about what she thought if he signed the online petition for Texas seceding from The United States. Obviously expecting something completely different, I was speechless for a moment.
I don't know if any of you have ever hopped on over to We the People to check out what's going on in the American petitioning arena, but if you haven't recently been by, it might be worth your time to stop in and check out all the states demanding secession from The United States Union. (Oh, and there's a couple petitions in there wanting to preserve The United States and others asking for the legalization of marijuana, to allow 4x4 vehicles on recreational lands, and the Twinkie initiative — which is linked to this story, in case you're interested.)
A couple of months ago, Sister Stephanie attacked the issue of free speech in the U.S. Now, I know many outside of the U.S. are aware of our freedom of speech over here, but how many even know what the freedom of petitioning is all about or why it's even an important issue in the first place? Hang onto your seats. I'm going to give you a short history lesson in petitioning.
According to the United States Courts, this is how they sum up an American's Right to Petition:
"The First Amendment includes a provision that says that "Congress shall make no law . . . abridging the right of the people . . . to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Although there do not appear to be any Supreme Court cases that precisely define the contours of this provision of the First Amendment, it reminds individuals that, in a democracy, it is the Government's job to redress the legitimate grievances of its citizens.
The judiciary redresses grievances whenever it determines that constitutional or other legal rights have been infringed upon, and then attempts to remedy the situation. The Congress redresses grievances when it changes bad laws. The Executive Branch redresses grievances when its administrative agencies change inefficient regulations. When the President pardons someone who has been justly convicted, but for whom extenuating circumstances exist, he also may be redressing grievances. Thus, although there is no definitive interpretation of this clause of the First Amendment, it seems that each branch of government has specific means available to it to redress the grievances of the citizenry."This might not seem like much to some people, after all it almost sounds like it gives U.S. citizens the legal right to whine when we aren't getting our way. But, think about it for a minute. The U.S. wouldn't be The United States if we didn't have the right for our voices to be heard. Before we broke free from Great Britain in the 1700s, we were a very oppressed nation. We weren't allowed to speak out against a king who ruled us from clear across the ocean — our pleas for change went unheeded. We weren't allowed to levy our own taxes, but instead we had to put up with what King George wanted in order to fill his own coffers, without so much as a careless glance at those struggling to survive on a continent he really knew nothing about. It's no wonder that the founding fathers of this United States wrote into the First Amendment of the Constitution the right for us to send our list of grievances to the government. The people wanted to be heard, plain and simple.
Perhaps you're wondering how this petition thing works. According to NPR in a recent article, "People From 20 States Ask to Secede on White House Website," twenty different states (as of this writing, more than twenty states have added petitions) are asking for the right to "peacefully" withdraw from the United States of America in order to form their own individual countries (or in some cases, join forces with other secession states or create entirely new states, like the city of Austin seceding from Texas or the State of Jefferson created from carved out portions of northern California and Oregon). In order to even have a chance at the President looking at such petitions, they must garner at least 25,000 signatures. Texas is leading the pack with over 113,000 signatures and growing. And the list of states runs the gamut, from Maine to Missouri and from Virginia to Colorado. Most of the secession demands are pretty general and clearly written.
For example, here is what Illinois states:
As the founding fathers of the United States of America made clear in the Declaration of Independence in 1776:
"When in the Course of human events, it becomes necessary for one people to dissolve the political bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the powers of the earth, the separate and equal station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent respect to the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation."
"...Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, that whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or abolish it, and institute new Government..."But there are few petitions also circulating demanding that certain states remain part of the United States.
Here is North Carolina's pledge:
We ask the President to affirm that the quiet strength of this great nation lies in a patient and powerful unity that transcends and transforms our differences and does not waiver in the face of impetuous and petulant indifference to the rule of law.
We pledge allegiance to the Flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all. We do not support secession.
We the people of North Carolina will support and defend the Constitution and laws of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic. We ask the President to recognize our commitment to the endurance of our extraordinary union.
I don't know about you, but I find all of this fascinating! Current events are what shape and mold the world in which we live. I'm aware that most of the signatures on the secession petitions are from those highly disgruntled over the presidential election results. I'm also aware of the fact that all of these petitions are a crapshoot. I mean, really, will they actually secede? Considering what happened back in the 1860s, my hope is that we all learned a lesson or two then and that secession is not only a daunting task, but a very expensive one at that, both in money and lives. But here's my question: Since some of these petitions are well over the 25,000 signature mark, will the President of The United States even consider looking at them? I don't know, but that's the whole idea behind the Right to Petition as put forth by the U.S. Constitution, a wonderful legal document that the founding fathers had drawn up for this very reason.
|Seceded Southern states, 1861|
But why is any of this even important? Sometimes, as writers, we struggle with shaping a story. One thing I used to love about the Law and Order television franchise is that the shows always claimed that the storylines were "ripped from today's headlines." Stuff like modern states threatening to secede is fodder for a writer's mill. I absolutely love American history and it's the one staple found in all of my novels. With this twist of events, think of the possibilities! Those of you who love alternate realities, well, here you go. Those of you who love history, well, here you go. Those of you who love contemporary literature, well, here you go. Whether you agree or disagree with any of these petitions is completely up to you. But, personally, I love seeing what's on other people's minds, ridiculous or not! I mean, hey, who isn't going to miss yummy Twinkies, so why not start a petition?