On November 6, 2012, the United States – of which roughly the southern half of Cascadia is currently a part – had an election. Perhaps you heard of it? There was a little bit of media coverage. There was a little bit of stress, for some of us, over which candidate would move to, or remain in, Washington D.C. and occupy, or continue to occupy, the most prestigious and powerful position within United States politics.
However, the flood of coverage and debate and worry in some ways obscured a larger truth: the United States presidential election was largely irrelevant to the future of the Cascadian movement.
This might seem like a bold claim, but consider:
– If (as I think) one of our arguments is that the federal governments of the United States and Canada are structurally incapable of meeting our needs in the way our bioregional community can, then, by definition, the election was not going to result in any of our concerns being allayed or our arguments being weakened.
– If (as I think) one of our arguments is that the national borders that divide states and countries do not represent and never have represented the realities of our lived experiences, then unless one candidate or another was proposing to entirely eliminate those borders and allow communities and bioregions to reconfigure themselves across those vestigial elements, nothing about that argument was going to change.
– If (as I think) one of our arguments, perhaps our primary argument, is that Cascadia is culturally, socially, geographically, and ecologically distinct from the rest of the United States and Canada in ways that are irreconcilable within any existing political framework, then, barring something totally unforeseen and unreported on throughout the campaign (perhaps plans by one candidate to build a Death Star and destroy the planet), the election was not going to result in a change in the status of that claim.
Sure, one party or the other might provide a slightly different context within which to express those arguments, but the arguments themselves are untouched. No matter how well or how badly the federal governments of the United States or Canada are run, from whatever political orientation they are run, the arguments for Cascadia remain the same. So why were we so absorbed in the election?
Why were we so worried? Why did so many of us gather in bars on election night and drink (okay, so it’s not like most of us need an excuse) with our eyes glued to the television screens that glowed red, white, blue, and Wolf Blitzer in the air above us?
I’d suggest that our stress over the election, our worries over whether Barack Obama or Mitt Romney was going to become the next president of the United States, was a sign of two things.
First: it was a sign that our residual self-conceptions as people whose identities are constructed not bioregionally, but nationally. The extent to which Cascadians believed that the American elections were important to them, that they could in any way represent their interests, was a sign of the extent to which Cascadians still thought of themselves as Americans. This provides an opportunity for those of us whose first identity category is as Cascadians to look at ourselves and consider to what extent we’ve truly identified with our bioregion.
Second, and I believe that this was the more significant case with many of us: it was a sign that Cascadians are, as much as anything else, a compassionate people. Regardless of our beliefs within the political framework of American or Canadian politics, we want people to live fulfilling lives, whether those people are Cascadian or not. Our worries over the future of the United States were worries not about the country as a political entity, but over the people who live within it.
The United States presidential election, then, provided an opportunity – and one that we took – to express the arguments for Cascadian self-determination within the framing of an argument as to why the presidential election was irrelevant to our cause, and why we need to continue building our communities on a bioregional rather than a national basis; moving forward, then, we might consider other non-Cascadian political events – elections, movements, factionalisms – in the same way. It was not an event that was in any way crucial to or determining of the future of Cascadia.
Cascadia is not the United States, even though part of our bioregion falls within that country’s borders. The arguments for Cascadian self-determination are not arguments that can be resolved or allayed by any change in the United States; our arguments stand on their own. We are a bioregion, not a nation-state. Cascadia continues, and will continue, regardless.
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