THE RIGHT OF SECESSION
I am a strong believer in one-world government as the only long-term solution to global strife, and yet, at the same time, I re-cognize that this ideal is not acceptable to most present-day leaders of states. Thus, in the meantime, I am forced to espouse what may seem to be the direct opposite of this world unification concept, namely, the right of secession.
Most of the world’s conflict is presently the result of govern-mental oppression of localized minority groups. The Kurds in Iraq, the Sikhs in India, the Palestinians in Israel, the French in Canada, the Armenians in Russia, the Eritreans* in Ethiopia, the Protestants in Ireland, the Tibetans in China, the Indians in Mexico, the Greeks on Cyprus, and the Tamils on Sri Lanka are all trapped in no-win situa-tions where they cannot hope for justice, let alone freedom. In every case the minority groups are not given the specialized treatment that they need in order to survive as a people. Cultural eradication of these minorities by means of propaganda, coercion, and economic sanctions is the aim of the state governments, and even when there is a form of representative government, the larger body tends to dis-regard the basic human rights and civil liberties that Americans commonly accept as the norm in our truly pluralistic society.
Now, just as divorce is granted a married couple that cannot work out their differences, the same should apply to nations and ethnic groups. One primary example of such a solution is the parti-tion of India into Hindu and Muslim territories, a solution that fort-unately prevailed despite the futile attempts of Gandhi to keep his country whole and intact. The relatively stable situation in India and Pakistan is proof of the validity of this solution to ethnic incompati-bility. Likewise, Taiwan is another separate entity whose right to exist apart from China is generally approved.
Our own country had a part in dissolving the British Empire when our founding fathers broke away from the king by force of arms. Furthermore, the American Constitution legitimizes such re-bellion any time governmental oppression becomes intolerable to the citizenry. But aside from the question of whether or not the over-throw of the government is a legal avenue for the redress of wrong-ful laws, surely it must be recognized that revolution calls for a fear-
*Eritreans are independent since their April 1993 referendum. Also, a peace-ful split between the Czech and Slovak republics was achieved through mutual consent in January 1993.
ful shedding of blood that it were best to avoid. It seems obvious to me that peaceful secession is to be preferred to bloody rebellion.
Thus, secession should be made as easy as divorce. When a group of citizens decides it cannot achieve justice, it should be able to peacibly submit a petition for withdrawal. In such an event, it might be necessary to relocate citizens holding the larger nation’s political philosophy out of the newly formed territory lest they in turn be-come victims of oppression by the new ruling body. Again, this was what was achieved in the case Pakistan and India, where mass migrations of the opposing religionists took placed across the new borders.
Now, opponents of the right of secession will undoubtedly re-surrect the lesson of America’s civil war, but nevertheless, the fact that Lincoln was able to put down a secession attempt in this country should not settle for all time the legitimacy of this approach to re-solving differences. Where the harsh measures of civil war did seem to work out for the best in the long run in America, still one might reasonably argue whether it would be worth the sacrifice of so much life and property in every case.
Certainly the “almighty union” principle is not working in Israel, in Iran, or in India today. Why not let the oppressed minor-ities in these countries experience true freedom in self-made cul-tures where they can worship as they please and continue to speak their native tongues in peace? When factions are fragmented by religious dogma, when militant Fundamentalists or other bigoted extemists have seized power, there is little hope of any short-term solutions, for the avowed aim of such narrow individuals is always totalitarian rule. Fundamentalists cause schisms in denominations by their very oppressive nature, and certainly civic bodies should have the same right of splitting off that is exercised by religious organiza-tions.
In the Bible when the minority people of Israel were being oppressed as slaves in Egypt, God’s word to Pharaoh was, “Let my people go!” Surely that same divine will of mercy must apply today.
Sadly, unconditional unity in this world is a thing of the future, because the mistreatment of minority groups is almost universal. In the meantime these groups, functioning as autonomous states, can be represented in the fellowship of the United Nations. And hopefully voluntary reunification of these fragmented territories can occur at some point in the future when a more tolerant and benevolent spirit prevails.