Saturday, June 28, 2008

Sample Chapter: Part Three, Twilight's Last Gleaming

[This chapter is from the final section of the book, Part Three: Twilight's Last Gleaming. The last third of the book concerns the balkanization of America during the decades following World War III. The chapter is preceeded by 6. The Pennsylvania Uprising and its Long-Term Consequences, and followed by 8. The Downsizing of America. Copyright 2008 by Charles Hoffman.]

7. The Southwest Rejoins Mexico

The Special Election and the Pennsylvania Uprising created enormous migrane headaches for the beleaguered Moulton administration. The mutiny of the Pennsylvania National Guard, which should have been foreseen as a contingency, sent shockwaves through the Federal Government. Clearly, any attempt to use the nation's armed forces to quell the uprising could have well resulted in a military coup de tat. It was a chilling, sobering realization. President Moulton touted his own wisdom in moving the Federal Government more-or-less permanently to Liberty's Fortress. For this, the President was pilloried in the press with charges of physical and moral cowardice.

The nation now found itself facing fundamental questions concerning its very identity. Could the Islamic states truly be considered some sort of "country within a country"? Or had they for all intents and purposes seceded from the Union as The Westsylvania Manifesto had maintained? Should the sundered portions of Islamic states, such as Westsylvania, be considered new states?

As these questions and their ramifications were being testily debated in the halls of government, in the media, and in private homes, a smattering of voices chimed in to call attention to a peripheral question; how many stars rightfully belonged on the American flag? Should stars representing Massachusetts, New York, and the other wholly Islamic states be subtracted? Should new stars be added to represent Westsylvania, Southern Ohio, and so on, or did these balance the loss of eastern Pennsylvania, etc., to a region within the country now ruled by Islamic law? This "flag controversy" for the most part elicited exasperated groans from a population long since grown jaded and cynical. There were, however, certain sentimentalists who persisted in making esoteric arguments concerning the flag's symbolic importance. Yet for the most part there was no great inclination to alter the fifty-star flag that had flown over the nation for well over a century. Syndicated columnist Donald McGrath suggested leaving the flag as-is, regardless of future developments, since it had stood for so long and represented the American nation at its zenith --a zenith, he did not add or need to add, that had passed. In this manner the issue was not so much settled as allowed to drop.

Given subsequent events, many breathed a sigh of relief that the flag issue had been put aside. The precise status of the states in the Northeast did not remain of paramount concern for very long. The dust from the Special Election and the Pennsylvania Uprising had barely settled when the nation's attention was drawn to the Southwest. In the wake of the momentous events of World War III and its aftermath, citizens there sensed a sea change in the nation's character. For decades, the Spanish-speaking majority had overwhelmingly favored leaving the Union to join Mexico. They now clamored to do so.

Sensing that the moment was at hand, the people there took to the streets in massive demonstrations that drew worldwide attention. Their local elected representatives could not have gone against this tide even if they had wanted to. The Congressional Chambers of Liberty's Fortress echoed with angry voices in English and Spanish throughout the rest of 2082 and into the following year. Mexico itself entered the debate, politely insisting that Southwesterners be allowed to "determine their own destiny."

To political realists, the secession of the Southwest appeared as inevitable as death. After all, if the State Senate and Assembly of California, for example, elected to quit the Union, what could the Federal Government do about it? A new Civil War waged with 21st Century weapons was unthinkable. Moreover, the Eastern US was still bleeding from the last war. And if formidable Mexico entered the fray on the side of the Southwest, as was almost a given, the US would be at a distinct disadvantage. Indeed, there were some in Mexico City who positively relished the prospect of a second war with the United States, justifiably certain that the rematch would have a decidedly different outcome.

Southwestern secession became the major issue of the 2084 presidential election. President Moulton had decided not to seek reelection, leaving the race wide open. Coveting the electoral votes of populous Southwestern states like California and Texas, candidates for both parties ran on pro-secession platforms. The focus of the debate gradually shifted to the manner in which the Southwest should leave the Union --"if and when the time came," politicians hastened to add in an effort to mollify secession opponents. It was of utmost importance, these politicians declared, that the Southwest and the rest of the Union "part as friends."

There was a good deal of backroom wheeling and dealing that went on between Eastern politicians and the Southwestern governors. California was fully prepared to walk right out of the Union as South Carolina had done in December 1860, triggering a chain reaction of subsequent secessions. The candidates and their minions endeavored to persuade the governors and other important officials to postpone any such move until after the election. In this effort, the candidates were motivated by both personal ambition and the nation's welfare. On the one hand, they were keenly interested in the electoral votes up for grabs if the Southwestern states remained in the Union through the present election cycle. Yet there was also a sincere desire to see the United States spared further humiliation. If the Southwestern states were to just up and leave the Union while the Federal Government could only stand impotently by, it would entail an immeasurable loss of face for a nation that had been humbled repeatedly in recent years. High government officials in the current administration, along with those seeking to succeed it, wished to avoid this at all costs.

To that end, it was deemed advisable to construct some sort of quasi-legal procedure for the secession of the Southwest, destined to come about in any event, so as to preserve the appearance of due process. In order to implement this plan, officials sought the aid of California's charismatic governor, Ramon Vargas (later president of Mexico). Governor Vargas was arguably the most powerful and influential political figure in all of Mexamerica. Other governors and elected officials of the region tended to follow his lead. The front-running candidates, as well as the President himself, travelled to California to meet with Governor Vargas in a series of long, confidential discussions that took place behind closed doors. Following the primaries and national conventions, each nominee, unknown to his opponent, made the same secret pact with the Governor: If the Governor forestalled California's secession until after the general election, the machinery to bring about an amicable parting of the Southwest from the rest of the Union would be put in motion in 2085.

The winner of the election, Rep. Ian McElroy of North Dakota, made good on his word. During his first month in office, he addressed the nation concerning the matter of Southwestern secession. Belaboring the obvious, the new president emphasized how the nation had changed over the past century in regard to the wholly seperate and distinct culture that had evolved in the Southwest. The people in the region had spoken in a loud, clear voice, the President said, and it was time to decide the matter by putting it to a popular vote in the affected states. This motion was widely derided as a face-saving charade. Southwestern secession had been hovering on the horizon like a menacing storm cloud for years, if not decades. Still, the nation cringed at the prospect of another "special election."

Pressed for an answer at a subsequent news conference, President McElroy was obliged to admit that the Special Election that had established Islamic law in much of the Northeast had indeed furnished the framework for the new election about to go forth. The President took considerable flak for this forthright admission, owing to the fact that the original Special Election had been mandated by what amounted to a surrender treaty to a victorious foreign power.

"Special Election Dos," as it came to be called, was held on May 1, just days before the Mexican holiday of Cinco de Mayo. In Arizona and New Mexico, over 90% of the electorate voted "yes" on secession. In Nevada and California, the measure passed with a slightly smaller percentage. Northern California was still home to many Anglos, among them the moneyed aristocracy that congregated in the San Francisco area. The majority of these expressed a haughty indifference concerning which flag flew at government offices.

Secession also passed in Texas, albeit by a slimmer margin. Only in Texas was there any public outcry reminiscent of the Pennsylvania Uprising. A movement to divide the state along ethnic line had begun even before the votes had been tabulated. Among the most prominent activists were two elderly sisters from Austin, Annabel Lee Scott and Veronica Kuykendall. Both had been active in local municipal politics for decades, and were highly esteemed matriarchs in the community. The were instrumental in coordinating protest activities in northern and eastern Texas.

State officials in Texas were quick to hearken to angry Anglo voices, making a timely effort to avoid turmoil, rioting, and bloodshed. In due course, Texas became the only Southwestern state to split in two as Pennsylvania had. The Big Bend area of West Texas that included El Paso joined Mexico, as did all the counties south of Austin. The partitioning of Texas was marred by only a few acts of violence, but one of these was notable for its dramatic impact. Before leaving San Antonio, Anglos there dynamited the Alamo to prevent it from falling into Mexican hands.

By mid-summer, the former American Southwest had been officially joined to Mexico. One of the first acts of the Mexican government in the new era was to secure Mexico's new northern border so as to prevent unauthorized entry from what was left of the United States.

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