NOVEL CONCEPTS: #5 – SHATTERED UNION: An Oral History of the 2nd American Civil War

Shattered Union for Xbox and PS2

A tank from the Republic of Texas in Shattered Union

With great interest and fond wishes, I have watched the slow descent of my beloved home country, from mild psychosis to full on paranoia.  Since 9/11 we have, like the poor folks on Maple Street, looked for the greatest enemy we could find, and it was ourselves.

In truth, it’s really not that bad.  We used to get along a lot better, but. in many ways, the things that divide us are vastly outweighed by the ones that unite us.  It’s easy to forget that in the midst of a political season.  The trouble is, it’s always a political season.

For the past few months, I’ve been stirring over a simple idea.  I think it can be widely agreed upon that half of the country thinks that the other half of the country doesn’t deserve this country.  It’s a sentiment that is echoed widely in social media, if not spoken that directly.  The left and right wings are spreading farther from each other and, as with any material under that type of pull, the middle is becoming strained at the tension created from both sides.

A few months ago I floated the idea of a national divorce.  Not like a secession where the departing states broke away without consent, this would be done more subtly, with assent of most involved.  The idea of two American republics, one for the left-wing and one for the right, standing side by side, without a civil war, had a certain dramatic interest to me.  I think we’ve reached past the stage where an all-out war would be the initial reaction, but I freely admit I could be wrong on that point.

As is so often the case, I have much more by the way of premise than plot, but, since this blog is meant to be a repository for ideas, I’ll do my best to get it all onto the page.

We begin in the year 2024 on election night.  A Republican president is ending his 2nd 4 year term and the Vice President, the current Republican nominee, has lost the election, giving the Democrats back control of the White House (essentially a similar situation to election night 2008).  Rather than blithely accept the loss of power, the Republicans, under the leadership of their outgoing president, begin a complex legal process.

The governor of Texas (a key player in this plan) declares home rule and announces Texas’s secession from the Union.  (Texas has really always been one excuse away from this anyways.)  Now, obviously this would never hold up, but over the course of his terms, the current President will have put several Supreme Court justices into place.  The ruling that they hand down will have the force of law (as do all Supreme Court rulings).  So, even with the blatant unconstitutionality of the act, with a sham court, stuffed with nominees who agreed to this plan should the need arise, Texas is allowed to withdraw, with a few other connected states in the south, west and midwest quickly following suit.  I could see the spread going so far as to cover from Alabama to Texas laterally and perhaps as far north as Nebraska.  Call it 7 states in total.  For the sake of story, I’d want the two nations to have a contiguous landmass and we’ll ignore Hawaii and Alaska for the moment.

The President-elect, technically powerless in this situation, would be forced into a corner and there would likely be a compromise put into place, one in which the seceding states would give up certain military and/or industrial considerations in exchange for the right to leave.  American military forces, (with a few notable exceptions) would withdraw to the remaining 43 states of the Union.

Within a few months the newly formed republic (which, borrowing from a right-wing pundit, I’ll take to calling Reagan) establishes a cohesive government amongst it 7 states.  Texas would likely have a dominant role, with having advantages in size, population and resources.  A capitol is established in Dallas and all the usual trimmings of a new nation begin to take shape (flags, an anthem, a legislative system).

During the transition period, over the course of 2025, there would be massive migrations both into and out of the new nation.  Many citizens would flee from a government that would be less concerned with equality and more concerned with an unrestricted free market and the promotion of the Christian religion.  A mirror of that would be those in blue states who would actively desire to live in a place that promotes Christianity as well as a flood of economic right-wingers who would want to try their luck in an unfettered market.

The first year or so would be one of upheaval.  Markets and international concerns would greatly affect both nations.  There would be dramatic shifts in so many indicators of the status-quo.  Unemployment, gas prices, international relations, all would be thrown into a spin at this dynamic shift.

I can foresee the original American republic (the Union for purposes of clarity) adopting many more liberal stances than are currently in place, with the lack of a strong right-wing opposition.  Off-hand, I’d say one could expect guns to be highly restricted or outlawed; a tax system that creates much more balance between the extremely wealthy and the working poor; a promotion of science and art programs that would not have passed in the previous political climate.  You could expect to see an increase in social programs and a strain on finances, which, accompanied by the national debt, would cause a severe strain on the economy.  Large corporations would use the upheaval as an excuse to realign assets and there would be a struggle to bring the system back into balance.

Simultaneously, the republic of Reagan would suspend economic controls and have many successful super-businesses within its borders, many of which would hold a great deal of political sway.  All non-Christian faiths would be put under fire and those who did not profess would find themselves surrounded by hostile neighbors.  In many cases, this would not be a new experience for them.  Like any theocracy, the infighting would be fierce and frequent, but the worst violence would be practiced on any non-Christians who wouldn’t or couldn’t leave.  Minorities would have it pretty rough as well, but in general, those most hampered would be the working poor.  A pure capitalist system, being Darwinian in nature (the irony!) inevitably leads to a domination of the poor by the wealthy.  It would not be a terrible stretch to imagine a quasi-feudal system in place, where anyone in the lower classes was slavishly tied to a corporation, out of fear of a personal economic disaster.

Obviously you can’t write a decent novel on tax evasions or the toll exacted by world financial markets (at least I can’t, but if you want to give it a shot, then have at it).  In truth, I’d be just as satisfied if some video-game developer would do a decent remake of the Shattered Union game from Xbox and Playstation 2, but, as is so often the case, if I want to enjoy the expression of an idea as it stands in my head, I’ll have to create it myself.  Additionally, this ground has been covered often and I fear the field is fallow.  Stories about a distopian America are so common you can throw a rock and hit one.  Stories about a split of America into warring factions have made for excellent televsion, video games and novels.  If this is an idea that I choose to pursue, I’ll need a hook.

Inspired by World War Z, I’d take a more personal tone with the narrative, going with short vignettes from voices of people on the ground or in important positions.  Talking to gun-runners about moving across the border would be a good chapter, a legal analyst for a constitutional discussion on the break, an account from a Muslim inside Texas of the struggle to get their family to old America and the abuses that befall them when they fail to do so; testimony from one of the ‘Angels’ that keeps morality in line in Reagan;

Eventually this would culminate in a full-scale conflict, though, for the sake of variety, I’d likely have it be the story of two conflicts.  The first would be infighting amongst the various interests within Reagan and an internal shooting war amongst the citizens of the new nation.  The culmination of that local war would be the retaking of the wayward states by Union forces, sweeping through to clear the remnants and restore the territories to their original position as states within the Union.  I think it’d be interesting to cover a final showdown from both sides and to have an explosive shocker of an ending, perhaps the leveling of Dallas with a MOAB or something of equal or greater force.

In closing, let me make a point to say that this is not a daydream or a liberal fantasy that I’d care to explore in real life.  The dissolution of the Union fills me with more horror than any other political situation I can think to imagine.  In truth, we need a lessening of tension to avoid a snap such as the one this story hypothesizes.  While I think it would be interesting to see the results of an experiment such as this, the wreckage would be to terrible to sift through.  Sadly, the only solution to the American psychosis is the therapy of finding common ground and waiting for the voices of irrationality to succumb to the forces of silence and time.

Photo is from the Shattered Union video game.