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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Bye Bye Miss American Empire: Neighborhood Patriots, Backcountry Rebels, and Their Underdog Crusades to Redraw America's Political Map by Bill Kauffman

While I am sympathetic to a point, Kauffman drives his point home with so much rancor and vigor that I ended up being both bored and repulsed.

Bye Bye Miss American Empire takes what should have been a fun look at the various groups that want to split apart current U.S. states and/or make independent countries out of U.S. states and turns it into a long, repetitive, angry rant about American foreign policy, both Presidents Bush and the United States (indivisible, as the pledge goes) in general.

Kauffman starts off on the right foot with an introduction to these various splinter groups (or groups that wish to splinter America, to be more accurate) by taking the reader to a meeting of secessionist movements from all around the country in Vermont. For me, this was the first and last enjoyable chapter.

Kauffman then launches into an extended discussion of secessionist movements in America in which he "scores points" by making multiple snide comments about the Constitution's use of the phrase "more perfect" (just to clarify, it means that it is intended to push the Union closer towards perfection, not that it was already perfect and now it becomes even more so), advocates the murder of Founding Fathers (Alexander Hamilton on page 13) and gets into a political argument with a master politician (Abraham Lincoln, on page 34) that only serves to demonstrate that Kauffman has not truly listened to what Lincoln was saying. Lincoln declared that "secession is the essence of anarchy." Kauffman scoffs and fails to truly follow Lincoln's logic. If New York City were to secede from the United States (a popular notion, Kauffman notes,  several times in American history), what would make it stop there? Could the Bronx secede from New York City? Could an individual neighborhood secede from the Bronx? Could an apartment building secede from that neighborhood? Could a single apartment secede from that building? Could an individual person in a room secede from that apartment? That would indeed be anarchy.

Kauffman moves on to explore the idea of New York State and New York City separating. I truly have sympathy for the upstate New Yorker. The provincial, self-important thinking of NYC is difficult for anyone in "flyover country" to stomach, being politically attached to it must be frustrating in the extreme.

The Great Seal of the
proposed State of
Other secessionist movements covered in this book include Puerto Rico, Hawaii, Alaska, the South and various movements to create 2 or more states out of several states, including a very commonsense one to break California up into 2, 3 or even 4 states. Kauffman's description of the various attempts to turn northern California and parts of southern Oregon into the State of Jefferson is quite interesting.

Kauffman makes his points throughout the book and can write with an amusing twist. Unfortunately, he throws in so many other snide comments and forced witty observations that don't really tell the reader anything except Kauffman's political leanings that I found myself wondering if this book could have been shrunk by 40 or 50 pages if a strong-handed editor had taken control of this project. Kauffman tells you early on his opinion on Bush, the War on Terror and why the principle of "one man, one vote" is unfair (I am not sure why he thinks rural voters should get more representation than urban voters, but he does). He also tells you about these items in the middle and at the end of the book many, many times. Enough already! Is this a book about secessionist movements in America or a personal political rant?

Long story short - great topic, maybe even the right guy to write this book, with the proper editor. But, in the end, I found that the topic was overwhelmed by all of the other baggage.

I rate this book 2 stars out of 5.

This book can be found on Amazon.com here: Bye Bye, Miss American Empire: Neighborhood Patriots, Backcountry Rebels, and their Underdog Crusades to Redraw America's Political Map

Reviewed on December 18, 2010.

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