A map inspired by John Michael Greer’s Ecotopia:
I was listening to a YouTube version of a podcast called Diet Soap with James Howard Kunstler and, when questioned about his “allergy to conspiracy theory” and the acknowledged collusion of Firestone, General Motors, and Standard Oil to destroy streetcar systems all over the United States, he asserted that this proven conspiracy had no material impact on the behavior of Americans regarding their choices of transportation. He claimed certainty about something which is unknowable. To believe what he claimed to believe one would have to believe, at a minimum, that the executives of those major corporations exposed themselves to legal risk very foolishly; which is possible, but also unknowable.
My counterfactual potential outcome in a world without this collusion is a Northeast United States which developed more in line with Western Europe. Its development heavily influenced by the automobile after the end of the Second World War but not in such a destructive way in terms of traditional city and town centers. Jim Kunstler even writes about the removal of the streetcar system in his most famous work, The Geography of Nowhere, but he is so wedded to the dismissal of conspiracy that he is unwavering in the face of facts that even he recognizes.
Sometime in the late 90’s or early 2000’s I recall reading an article in The Nation which described Birmingham, Alabama as having no public transit system apart from dial-a-ride type services. Starting, perhaps fittingly, with Jim Kunstler my awareness of the real geographic differences between the north and south of the eastern United States has developed immeasurably in the last 30 years. Looking at Birmingham’s population of roughly a quarter million people I would have thought of it as denser than Springfield; being at the crossroads of the Southeast I would have thought it as more or less as close to other significant regional metropolitan areas as Springfield is to its neighboring cities; and I would have been very wrong on both counts.
Birmingham’s population density is 1/3 of Springfield’s as its 250,000 people are spread over 150 square miles. It sits at the crossroads of the Southeast, yes, but the closest cities of significant size sit much further away than is true for Springfield. For Springfield Hartford, Albany, and Boston are 20 miles, 70 miles, and 90 miles away respectively. For Birmingham, Tuscaloosa, Atlanta, and Nashville are 60, 150, and nearly 200 miles away. In the South, Jim Kunstler explains, the automobile was an even bigger game changer than it was for the rest of the United States; the love of NASCAR and the worship of the car makes sense in a place where communities had been more spread out themselves, and were more distant from one another.
Bringing my annoyance with Kunstler’s refusal to see conspiracy (even when he sees conspiracy) together with these musings about the geographical differences between the Northeast and Southeast United States is Roy Moore. Instinctively I feel repulsed by a people who, collectively, would call upon such a person to represent them whatever his past relationships with teen girls. I’ve wanted no part of the United States below the Mason-Dixon since my first journey there as a child in 1974. You “hate Yankees”? Well, fuck you then, I’ll hate you right back.
Of course, what I see in Roy Moore they saw in Ted Kennedy; Mary Joe Kopechne, Chappaquiddick. How could people vote, repeatedly, for such a morally bankrupt individual? Maybe his record as perhaps the most effective legislator of the 20th century had something to do with it; for “our” side, giving us more and more the country “we” wanted, whatever his shortcomings as an individual.
Roy Moore is nothing more than an excuse to express what I would have believed but perhaps not expressed in any case, but he gives me the illusion of certainty in my moral rectitude, as with Kunstler and the dismissal of conspiracy. My loathing for the South aside, we need to end the charade of a “United” States of America: They don’t want the country I want, and I don’t want the country they want. Let the Confederacy reconstitute itself and arrange its affairs as it sees fit: No public transit, loose environmental laws, theocracy, mandatory gun possession for all adults at all times, mandatory minimum carbon emissions. It would still be among the world’s larger nation states.
New England could go off on its own with our little 6 state alliance, not even twice the size of Alabama all by itself, or we could join with New York, New Jersey, and maybe even Pennsylvania for a Spain sized North American nation; renewable energy, public transit, universal health care, legalized pot. Let the Mid Atlantic states be the buffer between us and The Confederacy, with the Midwest, Mountain West, and Far West left to their own devices.
We want different things, we see ourselves differently, and the constant lurching in different directions is getting all of us nowhere. It’s time, in this course of human events to dissolve the political bands which have connected us to another. Peacefully. Without malice. It’s been a great run, I guess, but it’s time to call it quits.