Government and secession: now and then

Moving through this emotionally charged 2016 Election Week, I am reminded of the book Ecotopia.When I read it as a Portland high school student in 1975, I was encouraged by what seemed progressive community thinking. This classic 1975 “cult” novel by Ernest Callenbach seemed to address my fears about environmental degradation of the land I loved. In this story the Pacific Northwest seceded from the United States with its citizens adopting a sustainable economy. And years before it became the thing “to do,” the book offered communities that ate local, shared bicycles and placed recycling bins in public spaces. Oh, and Ecotopia – spanning from Northern California through Oregon and Washington – was to be ruled by a woman.

This week’s presidential election – in the throws of fears, high emotions, and protests – quickly encouraged creators of an initiative for Oregon to secede from the United States. An initiative that was just as quickly dropped. Creators of the initiative, certainly a small minority, asked if there really was a place in the United States for Oregon anymore?

My great-great-great-grandfather and his fellow supporters of Oregon’s first Provisional Government may never have imagined a time when their great-great-great-great-grandchildren would be looking at ways to dissociate from the government they worked so hard to join. These first creators of our provisional government were white men: most, who imagined securing voting and property ownership rights limited to white men. A time period far from our present day commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion.

There are many times I have imagined what it might be like to bring my great-great-greats to present day for a “fireside chat” over a high quality brew. To share the today’s and the long ago’s. This is one of those. And then I want to go back to sleep and wake up to a different election morning.


The historic 1843 Champoeg meeting where trappers and settlers voted to form a provisional government for the Oregon Country (House chamber mural). Image credit:

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