Thoughts on #CalExit

With the election finally over, Americans are preparing to say farewell to President Barack Obama and to welcome President Donald Trump. Now, some people are not happy with that reality and many are taking to the streets to protest — not the outcome of the election, but what the new President-elect represents. To many of us here in coastal California he represents bigotry, fear-mongering demagoguery, and a step back from all the hopes and progress we believe (yes, in the present tense) epitomize America.

Recently, a post-election movement called Yes California has been gaining public and social media attention. The campaign, colloquially known as #Calexit, proposes that the state of California secede from the U.S. and become an independent nation. As extreme as it sounds, there are some who find this a good change of pace in a state seemingly alienated in a country that, as a whole, has taken a rightward shift in electing Trump. California is one of the most progressive states in the nation and one of a handful in the country to have Democratic majorities in our state legislature as well as a Democratic governor. We have legalized recreational use of marijuana, implemented more gun safety reforms, raised taxes on the wealthy, and more.

So, it would seem, California has legitimate concerns and motivations to secede, but we are as likely to secede as the Electoral College is to elect Hillary Rodham Clinton the next President for winning the national popular vote. Some things sound nice, but carry potentially worse moral consequences — such as further inflaming divisions and spurring constitutional crises — than the realities we face.

These “solutions” are not solutions at all. They are dangerously false hopes and deeply unpatriotic ones at that. If we believe that America is better than bigotry, fear, and alt-right nationalism, then why should we run away and allow reactionaries who promote such ideas to have their way with our country? Two-thirds of Californians voted for someone other than Trump, so we should feel empowered as a state to oppose him and his policies. Do we have the privilege of leaving this country and running away from those who may need our solidarity? Secession is not only unconstitutional (we fought a costly Civil War over it), but incredibly ignorant and stupid. If we felt that the alt-right bloc of Trumpists were deplorable because of their rhetoric, then we should also know that secessionists are of the worst kind of deplorable in America.

This Union, forged in the fires of Revolution, ratified in the Articles of Confederation, strengthened in our federal Constitution, and sealed with the blood of millions who died to preserve, protect, and defend it, cannot be undone by our own pathetic self-interest or sense of moral superiority. We are better than that. Even in our darkest, most desperate moments, we are better than that. We’re Californians! But we’re Americans first, and we don’t run away out of fear or despair. We fight for and defend our rights and the rights of all people. If we secede or move to Canada or wallow in our own grief and anger, then we choose to abandon an America that needs us and our example now more than ever.

Now, do I expect the #Calexit movement to go anywhere? Or should I worry that liberals will flee en masse to Canada? No, not at all, because I believe in the undying resolve and hope of every American to reaffirm the most fundamental principles of our Revolution and our Union. We, as Californians, will continue to advocate and fight for the cause of progress and liberty and justice, whatever the costs may be, as long as we do it united and inseparable.

So, as Californians, let us not fall into despair or entertain empty threats about leaving the U.S. We will get through this. It may seem like we’re entering an age of national twilight, but if Americans of all backgrounds, lifestyles, and opinions work together, we will come to the realization of one of President Obama’s greatest legacies and lessons to us: “Hope! Hope in the face of difficulty. Hope in the face of uncertainty. The audacity of hope! In the end, that is God’s greatest gift to us, the bedrock of this nation. A belief in things not seen. A belief that there are better days ahead.”

I still believe in the audacity of hope, and I choose to believe that it will lead us forward still, but only if we cling to it and act as one people.

Nathan J. Lainez is a fourth-year history major. He can be reached at nlainez@uci.edu.

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Tupac proclaimed his West Coast love, Katy Perry praised the beauty of California girls and Best Coast has defined their entire discography by devotion to the Golden State. The throughline: Californians love California, and they presume that if you’re not from here, you want to be. And in the post-election fallout, this snobbery has outdone itself. Whispers, status updates and clickbait articles express a desire for California to secede now that Trump is president.

Aside from the unreal and unprecedented nature of this new trend, the call to secede completely reaffirms the kind of attitude that led to Trump’s victory in the first place.

Two days after the election, one of my professors used the entire class as an open mic of sorts for students who had anything relevant on their minds. We got to the subject of what I think of as “coastal privilege”: the idea that those of us living in traditionally-blue coastal states have neglected and belittled the communities and ideologies of middle America. Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and New York, where the “artists” live; the quirky liberals, too absorbed in being different to care about those with more traditional values trying to put food on the table. While we blossomed in our perception of progress, any landlocked state felt the plague of isolation and recession. Urban spaces, typically praised for being liberal sanctuaries, are trapped in a paradox of ignorance too. Everything about the city is so inclusive that it’s easy to silence the intolerant cries from the suburbs or countrysides. When we hear stories of hate crimes or shootings or riots, we can dismiss them as being “elsewhere” and return to our bubble of equality.

And then my classmate said something that I can’t get out of my head. Speaking from his own experience, he said his grandmother originally came to California because she was trying to run away from a bad situation in the South. He said at some point, that’s how a lot of our families ended up here. Westward expansion had an idealism to it; life can be better “out there.”
If Californians continue to pursue secession with any level of sincerity, that would only perpetuate this century’s old escapism. We can’t move west anymore, so let’s just remove ourselves from the whole situation. When are Californians going to learn that running away isn’t the answer?

It’s taken me a long time, but I think this election has finally made me comfortable with being an American, somehow. I’m realizing that this separatist “opposition to patriotism” attitude has infected so many people, making them feel like the nation’s problems are not our individual problems. That self-sufficiency and individualism can accidentally lead to narcissism.
Now, more than ever, Americans owe it to themselves and to each other to find pride in being Americans. It’s the ignorance of the country’s majority that resulted in the “shocking” discovery that what America is, is vast numbers of rich white people who can’t be bothered with platforms of tolerance.

If that’s not the America you want to live in, don’t leave it. Change it.

Savannah Peykani is a fourth-year literary journalism and film and media studies double major. She can be reached speykani@uci.edu.