Secession, trying to make a go of it as an independent country after decades of union with your neighbors,—these things really don’t turn out all that well in the end. Trust us, we know.
Dear United (for the time being) Kingdom,
Greetings from across the pond!
We heard about what happened a few days ago, and we wanted to give everybody over there a few words of advice: secession, trying to make a go of it as an independent country after decades of union with your neighbors, making hay of the supposed tyranny of a far-away federal government, exploiting popular nostalgia for a supposedly glorious past, creating a culture defined by a loss of status and prestige, and above all stoking fears of a racial or ethnic “other” in order to win support for a short-sighted political agenda that only benefits a few—these things really don’t turn out all that well in the end.
Trust us. We’ve been there. Our ancestors are the ones who started the US Civil War.
To be sure, we aren’t trying to say that the world of 1860 is the same as that of 2016. For one thing, y’all have a legal way out, and the EU isn’t going to try to reverse this exit by force the way the US did ours. And of course, y’all aren’t trying to preserve an economy based on chattel slavery, you’re just trying to prevent further immigration by poor, non-white, and/or non-Christian people to your island. Come to think of it, though, some of your arguments did look pretty familiar:
Still, we can’t help but wish y’all had benefited from our experience.
We tried secession (in fact, tried to create a whole new country because we convinced ten other states to follow our lead), and more than a century and a half later, we still haven’t regained anything like our previous economic or political influence. Frankly, for most of that time we’ve been little more than a poor, racially divided, benighted backwater. Today we still lag behind the rest of the US in just about every measure of human development.
And I don’t think it’s just us. Where in the world has secession turned out just fine for the ones who break away, or try to? One could make the argument that it worked for us in 1776, but that was a LONG time ago. (We do still feel poorly when we think about all that tea, by the way. Sometimes Massachusetts people can be SO tacky!) But back to the point: try to find a recent example. Panama? Biafra? Katanga? Bangladesh? Eritrea? South Sudan? Bosnia? Crimea? We’re not sure that’s a list y’all really want to be on.
We’re not saying y’all won’t be happier alone. Maybe that’s just the way you like it. (Although, if that’s the case, wouldn’t you say the whole “sun never sets on the British Empire” thing was a bit overzealous?)
But if the principle established last Thursday is sound, then it looks like it may be about time for y’all to say goodbye to Scotland and Northern Ireland. And evidently not many people there were very attached to easy access to the biggest trading bloc in the world, or to London as a financial capital and a big driver of your own economy. Since y’all will be an even smaller little piece of a country, further down the road it’s probably going to get a lot harder to justify hanging onto that Security Council seat, too—nuclear weapons or not.
All that said, please don’t be too hard on yourselves. People misread the general sense of history and their place in it—try to turn around and run in clear the opposite direction despite all evidence to the contrary—all the time. (All of us know plenty of people, here and in the rest of the US, who still can’t see the truth of what our people did more than 150 years ago, or the progress most of them have been trying mightily to stymie since then.) It happens.
But one thing we’ve learned the hard way is, those who do—and all their neighbors, and their descendants, and basically everyone in the world for generations afterwards since, like it or not, all parts of the human race are intimately connected to each other—have to live with the consequences. (Lord, didn’t anybody over there ever watch Children of Men? It takes place in YOUR OWN COUNTRY!)
Anyhow, we wish y’all the best, and we promise we’re going to try and stay on good terms with everybody during what we’re afraid will be a really messy divorce. Sooner or later, we’re sure y’all will get back together. It’s destined to be.
In the meantime, we just hope the damage—to Britain and to the rest of the world—isn’t too great.
White South Carolinians (at least, the ones who’ve read real history books)
Photo: Getty Images