I’m going to offend the sensitivities of most everyone who reads this, but I’ll be brutally frank: Whenever I read tripe like this defending large nation-states against the so-called parochialism and small-mindedness of regions such as Catalonia, I’m always inclined to ask: Why are the big nation-states always deemed right and the small aspiring nation’s always characterized as short-sighted and misguided, if not flat wrong?
For that matter, what happens when the vaunted nation-state turns out to be acquisitive, exploitative and tyrannical?
I don’t deny that if Catalonia succeeds at some point and becomes a bona fide nation-state, it will face its share of challenges. But the fact remains that it is a very affluent region with its own language and cultural traditions. Its culture and politics have diverged significantly from those of Spain, and this alienation is reinforced by a long history of Spanish economic and cultural dispossession, most recently at the hands of the Francisco Franco regime. Critics of Catalan independence contend that Spain has undertaken a variety of means to redress these abuses within the last couple of generations, but national grievances are typically complicated, implacable things that stretch far into the recesses of memory.
For these reasons and others Catalans – at least, what appears to be the vast majority of them – no longer regard union with Spain as comporting with their vital national interests.
Yet, Christopher Dickey, the author of this column equates the historic grievances of Catalonia with the hysteria that gripped the South in the years leading up to the Civil War.
Why, Mr. Dickey, do you and other American writers and columnists feel so compelled to lecture small aspirant nations about Southern secession and the Civil War? Why is Southern secession and the outcome of the Civil War considered so instructive for Catalans and other aspiring nationalists?
Have you really invested serious study toward understanding the myriad of causes leading up to Southern secession and the bloody war that followed? Have you ever considered that the North, particularly the Northeast, opposed Southern secession with less than lofty intentions in mind?
Has it occurred to you that the Northeast was less offended by Southern slavery than by the fact that the South not only was the wealthiest and most influential section of the nation but also that it stood in the way of economic policies (e.g., protective tariffs) that greatly benefited the economic fortunes of the Northeast? Aren’t you aware that the Northeast desperately craved to secure its own economic and political preeminence at the expense of the South and that feigned outrage over slavery served as a convenient smokescreen for these interests?
Fort that matter, have you ever considered how quickly the Northeastern narrative took hold of American consciousness after the South’s departure? Were you ever struck by how quickly the saga of Pilgrims – frankly, a bunch of intolerant, commie, Calvinist kooks in New England – was imposed as the bedrock of the American national narrative, despite the fact that the first permanent English settlement in America was Jamestown, Virginia?
You contend that the South fought to preserve slavery and that the North fought to prevent secession. Have you ever given serious thought to why Lincoln and the North were so determined to prevent secession? Are you aware that Federalists in the Northeast actually were the first to contemplate secession because the economic policies of Southern presidents Jefferson and Madison simply were not deemed congenial to their regional interests?
Has it ever occurred to you that that Free Soil doctrine, which stoked much of the Southern secessionist rage in the South, essentially amounted to white separatism – an American frontier populated exclusively by white merchants, laborers and artisans with no blacks, slave or free, allowed? And did you know that many old Northwestern states backstopped this policy with black codes to prevent the immigration of free blacks?
Yes, Mr. Dickey, there is a lot to be learned if you’re brave enough to venture beyond the officially approved historical canon and the ruling class narrative, whose bread and butter are closely bound up with perpetuating this narrative.