We hear a lot of cries to ‘take our country back’, to ‘give us our rights as a legitimate minority’ and to ‘free us from a foreign oppressor’. The first is probably more common today rising from the ardent nationalists, the second from specific demographic groups such as religious or ethnic. The last is less common as the era of colonialism has begun to evaporate into the mists of history; although it could be argued that economic colonialism is still a potent force.
But ‘Secede’? This implies not only a strategy of an oppressed minority but of an area that is geographically distinct and relatively homogeneous ethnically and culturally. In ‘The Girl from Ipanema’ we find the US fractured into a number of distinct, small republics. Most prominent in the story are the new Confederate States of America, the Republics of New York and Venice and the Rocky Mountain Republic.
Today there are fewer examples of calls for secession. Of course the most famous and infamous historically was the War between the States, or Civil War, in the US in the 1860s. Now we hear faint cries from Texas and California. An odd couple if ever there was one! Scotland of course is likely the most prominent of all contemporary examples. It did happen in the Sudan but with, so far, disastrous consequences.
In the past the Basque region comes to mind as does the separation of Ireland from Britain. Some are relatively peaceful as with Czechoslovakia, but that may be rare. And then there is Quebec.
Je me souviens/ Que né sous le lys/ Je croîs sous la rose.
I remember/ That born under the lily/ I grow under the rose.
These lines are from a poem by E.E. Tache’. The literal significance is clear. The province, born under the ‘fleur de lis’ of France grew under the ‘rose’ of England. But its meaning seems to hold more emotional and historical relevance. It may be argued it calls on the Quebecois to remember not only their cultural heritage but also their inferior status under an Anglo majority.
Linda and I just returned from a trip to the city of Quebec with 50 odd of my college classmates and their spouses. First let me say that it is without a doubt one of the most lovely old cities we’ve ever visited. Not only that but the people are gracious and friendly and unabashedly enthusiastic about their province. Remarkable since temperatures can range from -40 C/F in the winter to over 100 F in the summer with humidity of 98%!
While there appears to be no strong push at the moment to break away from Canada, there are a few interesting facts I’d like to share from our trip. First, technically, Quebec might not actually have to secede. It was never included in the Canadian constitutional proclamation issued by Queen Elizabeth II in 1982. Interestingly though, Quebec is still part of the commonwealth system and so tied to the UK.
So where does this all leave us? We have our own serious problems in the US now. I wrote about this in a Blog in 2018, The National Marriage: Red and Blue. The US has had major cultural differences and disagreements about the role of a central government since the founding. For those that take the time to read my old blog and are interested in a more thorough treatment of that subject I would suggest reading Pauline Maier’s brilliant ‘Ratification‘. Our ‘experiment’ was, though ratified 13-0, a very close run thing. Maier’s book makes this clear. The question is: do we break up, ‘divorce’, or muddle through and hope that history will ultimately unfold favorably. The Quebecois seem to be ‘muddling through’ quite well. But I’d like to hear from some of them.