Make the United States Plural Again

Make the "United States" plural again.  Is that so much to ask?  Up until the Civil War, that was the customary grammatical construction.  "The United States of America are committed to..."  "The United States of America have declared war upon..."  "The United States of America stand together..."

Ah, there's the rub.  These United States of ours do not really stand together anymore on anything, and only the linguistic shrewdness of treating the "United States" as a singular entity provides the fictitious veneer of national unity.  In a world filled with fake news, fake markets, and fake elections, ignoring proper grammatical rules to pretend the states are united in purpose as one nation is just par for the course.  

The story has been told to schoolchildren since the nineteenth century (all the way to the near present, when American history was abandoned in public schools altogether) that the change from plural to singular reflected the significance of the Civil War.  Before that conflagration, there was much constitutional disagreement as to whether individual states had the sovereign power to decide for themselves whether they would continue to consent to the authority and jurisdiction of a national government.  After that war, the answer was clear: they did not.  From that point forward, it did not matter if every single citizen of a state unanimously voted to leave the Union; that democratic election would be ignored.  The Civil War decided once and for all that, although the original thirteen colonies may well have entered into a voluntary contract together, there would be no "take-backs."  Once you're in, as La Cosa Nostra would say, you're in for life.  Or, as the schoolbooks delightedly tell the story, after the Civil War, the United States finally became one nation.  Everybody likes a happy ending.

Maybe, just maybe, if we began to treat the United States as fifty governments again, rather than as fifty tourism zones, we could put things back into proper perspective before this whole American project of ours cracks up under the weight of D.C.'s hubris and power-hoarding.  Maybe state governors and legislators would begin to protect and preserve their own state powers from leviathan federal overreach.  And maybe Democrats intent on ending the Electoral College in favor of a national popular vote would be reminded that willy-nilly rewrites of the Constitution will end up supercharging state secession movements in short order.  Maybe.  I mean, none of the other glaring warning signs that we're sleepwalking into Civil War II has done the trick, but perhaps if we at least reminded the American imperialists in D.C. that the fifty state governments still retain their sovereign powers and that the citizens of those fifty states are still more than easily swappable population pods for the national government to exploit, we could at least blow up the charade that the United States are in agreement about anything D.C. imposes on the rest of us.

It would be a good first step because the states need to find some backbone pronto.

What we have right now is a peculiar beast!  Most of the grunt work done by government is performed at the state and local levels, but the 535 "highly esteemed" Congress-critters and the millions of bureaucratic swamp rats (of the arguably unconstitutional alphabet agencies sponging federal tax dollars from the states) are the ones who get all the attention.  They mostly accomplish this upside-down power-grab by way of feudal bribery not at all different from the way lords ruled over their vassals during the Middle Ages.  

"Yes, North Carolina, you could choose to go that way, but we would hate for you to lose all those federal grants we've been giving you from the revenue slush funds of the Sixteenth Amendment and the Federal Reserve's money-printing."  

"Well, Tennessee, you could choose to run your own state, sure, but we don't see any more federal public works projects in your future."

First the federal government secured for itself the power to steal income from the pockets of each American, and then it turned right around and held that money ransom unless the individual states voluntarily castrated their sovereignty and begged the good lords in D.C. for a little doting patronage.  America, the country that defeated an empire, rejected appeals to monarchy, fashioned a republic of the people, empowered a political aristocracy, and finally reduced its citizens back to enfeebled peasantry.  

The time for states to begin undoing this great power-grab is now.

I would much rather put and keep the spotlight on the governors, state legislators, mayors, and council-people, and stop treating the federal officers we send to D.C. as princes and princesses next in line to the throne.  It's not that I mistake D.C. as having a monopoly on corruption or royal pretension; it's that I want as much power as possible to be allocated as locally as possible, so that when some two-bit crook of a politician betrays his voters, he still has to face them at the local supermarket, where paper mâché, glitter, and superglue are all within aisles of each other.

This was, after all, part of the original purpose of the U.S. Constitution — to delineate a small number of explicit powers granted to the national government while leaving everything else to state authorities.  And when the rubber hits the road, state and local governments provide the heavy lifting.  That's why Governor DeSantis and the state of Florida have succeeded far better in fighting the Chinese Virus than Killer Cuomo and the state of New York.  It's also why, to the everlasting surprise of China's state-run news agencies, when Congress fails to perform one of its only constitutionally delegated jobs — passing a budget — and the federal government "shuts down," most Americans never even notice.  Newspapers all over the world are always surprised by this result.  "The American government is shutting down.  Expect chaos as Americans devolve back into a survival-of-the-fittest state of nature!"  Yet in hometowns across the country, nothing much changes, except the temporary suspension of wasteful government spending and imperial administrative decrees from our bloated federal government.  Quite a few Americans in quite a few states see that reprieve as an obvious net benefit.

In our current Cold Civil War holding pattern when everybody's waiting to see whether martial law in the U.S. capital will make Myanmar's currently unfolding coup look like a gentle disagreement, or whether Wall Street's and the Fed's manipulation of the market will finally collapse the dollar, or whether some as yet unknown domino will finally cascade into full-blown hostilities between Americans, now is the time for states to get back to the business of being relatively sovereign states.  State officeholders need to take back powers they've implicitly handed to the federal government, no matter how difficult the unwinding of past agreements might be.  State leaders need to become much more prominent advocates for their local populations.  And citizens must begin treating their federal representatives more as ambassadors to the national capital (as they were meant to be) than as newly admitted members of D.C.'s national ruling club.  

At the very least, it's vital to this country's preservation that the words "United States" no longer represent a mere shorthand for the will of D.C. elites and begin to reflect, once again, the individual voices of all fifty states.

Image: pinkzebra via Pixabay, Pixabay License.

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