My Dear Daughter,
I never imagined you would not be an American citizen, like I used to be. You were born in America, after all, just like I was.
But then Donald Trump came along.
I owe it to you to explain how this man changed not just your life but all our lives. For the better. Though it's not easy for me to say that, given the civil disobedience, the riots, the great wars, the years of uncertainty. New York City's not the same, but when I look at what's happened to America, I'm glad we seceded.
When Donald Trump first decided to run for President, I was scared. I knew he was far from an ordinary politician. The way he insulted and attacked journalists who were just doing their jobs. The way he endlessly brought up his achievements. The way he spoke, as if he was America. Then the armed men started showing up for his rallies, wearing those ridiculous red caps. Sure, Trump claimed he had nothing to do with them, but he gave them plenty of (rhetorical) ammunition: Until one fine fall day, he said we should invade Mexico, because Mexico's already invaded us.
Heads of some of Mexico's most infamous cartels vowed they'd strike inside America if we dared enter their territory. Mexicans, Latinos and all vaguely brown folks were attacked in the streets, violence along the border picked up, and work strikes and stoppages made life miserable. Most Democrats, and the few remaining Republicans not attached to Trump's campaign, suggested we dial down the tension. But Trump labeled them "traitors," "losers" and "pathetic." At one campaign rally, the capped crusaders even attacked Jeb Bush, the last Republican candidate standing, mostly because his PAC still had a few million of someone else's money to blow.
The message was clear: "Trump would not tolerate dissent from his own party."
He actually said this, in the third-person.
A time comes when it is necessary for people to dissolve the political bands which tie them to one another. This was that time. Educated, wealthy, prudent or simply visibly non-white and non-Christian residents of Trump strongholds made their way north, west or east. Latinos were way ahead of them. With his knack for making it worse, Trump promised that no matter where Latinos were in the United States, they'd be pursued and arrested, reunited and deported, no matter what, when he won. Not if, but when. And he won. He won.
Some of us call it President Obama's finest hour. In his honor, many of us wish to claim him as our first President, even though he was not. Obama ordered the military to assist and protect those who wished to relocate away from states where their liberties and freedoms were under threat.
Senator Sanders, unbowed after a strong run, took this one step further. "The State of Vermont shall," he declared, from the floor of the United States Senate no less, to boos, scattered applause and mostly stunned silence, "issue passports to all who enter our territory from America seeking sanctuary. And all holding Vermont citizenship shall be protected by the State of Vermont, regardless of origin."
Several days later, governors of the five other New England states agreed that, even if they did not endorse Vermont's decision, they would not permit transit to any federal agencies pursuing undocumented Americans in Vermont. New York's mayor de Blasio announced the capital of the world would remain, at all costs, "a sanctuary city, free and open to all," which "refuses to hand over its citizens to an administration that threatens our constitution, behaves tyrannically, and tramples the rights of states and governments." Trump fumed, but there were still some months to go before his inauguration. His agenda could not be realized, he knew, if the Obama administration allowed this sedition to continue, so he did what he did best: Riled up the base.
Within weeks, white nationalist militias were trying to occupy key roads and detaining persons suspected of insufficiently American identity. Latino gangs retaliated, and violence connected to cartels surged in border states. Armed incursions across the southwest spiked, and Phoenix collapsed into mayhem and anarchy. There were car bombings, then random murders.
Massive civil disobedience campaigns, growing out of Black Lives Matter, forced California's hand: the governor announced a secondary citizenship, connected to California residency and then demanded, from the Obama administration, control of military assets within its territory. Residents in Los Angeles went one step further, announcing the city's independence. New York City's Mayor de Blasio offered an exchange of embassies. Hawaii proposed to ally with the Golden State, offering its tremendous naval assets to sweeten the deal.
President Obama, stunned by the rapid escalation, proposed a "national dialogue"; proposals included a new constitutional convention, a new election, a Deez Nuts caretaker administration, martial law, Shari'ah law, or dissolving the Republic and passing absolute power to one of his daughters, "like folks did in the Roman period."
But events had accelerated beyond Obama's control. When President-elect Trump declared California and New York to be in open rebellion, the states announced they would cease sending tax revenue to the federal government, ending what New York Governor Andrew Cuomo described as "remittances" which have "for decades forced our dynamic economies to support losers unable to keep up with a global marketplace."
Oregon and Washington sided with California-Hawaii, while delegates from the Second Hartford Convention elected Bernie Sanders the first President of the New England Republic. New Jersey Governor Christie swore allegiance to America's actual elected President, but was quickly hounded from office by supporters who demanded an alliance with New York and a 7-train stop in Secaucus, "like we were promised." Several prominent New Yorkers said, "really, New Jersey?" but fortunately, cooler heads prevailed.
With their wealthier economies, the Northeastern states decided: "Given our ability to, I don't know, put a man on the moon, we can certainly have high speed Amtrak." Vice President Joe Biden was so happy, he announced Delaware's independence, without consulting anyone. Three days later, Delaware voted to join the Northeastern Alliance. The NYPD, which had for years built up an army and even a counter-intelligence program by spying on basically every Muslim in the city, became the foundation of a new northeastern military-industrial complex.
Harper's Canadian government tried to stay neutral, but Quebec recognized the Northeast, and proposed our own Schengen Treaty. All of this before Trump became President: He showed up in D.C. a few days after the scheduled inauguration and announced he would live in the White House only until a new Trump property situated on the Mall reached completion.
In his first executive order, he tried to deploy the army against the secessionists of the coasts and the Republic of Chicagoland, to reunite a nation "bleeding from its west, its east, its ... wherever," but he was forced to concentrate military resources on the strife spreading throughout Texas, New Mexico and Arizona. It was going terribly, as anyone could have predicted.
American troops were called back from Europe, East Asia and the Middle East to a divided nation, forced to take sides, while a panicked Benjamin Netanyahu was last seen wandering down a darkened hallway wondering whether it was too late to support the Iran Deal. The South Koreans and Japanese mooted a military alliance with China, and Putin's forces began to harass Estonia.
For many of us, for your father's generation, it can still be hard to acknowledge we're no longer part of the United States of America. Officially, of course, America still considers us to be in "rebellion," and Vice-President for Life, America's last anchor baby, Bobby Jindal, demands the extradition of the "war criminal" Jeb Bush, but we know that's not happening. We risked a lot, but it was for the right reasons. If you ever forget that, just look across the border. Figuratively speaking. You can't, of course, because there's a wall. Mexico even paid for it. They said it was the least they could do considering how we stood up for Mexicans in their hour of need.
The Northeast, the Great Lakes and the West Coast--we call ourselves the Americas--are the world's social democratic havens, remarkably pluralistic and tolerant, home to great universities, great companies, great cities, great technologies, and that moon colony. With the right to control our tax revenues, and spend on our own infrastructure and education instead of unnecessary and endless war, we have realized societies with European levels of social mobility and early 20th century American dynamism. Minus the ethnic markers: Our first President, after all, was a Jewish socialist from the Northeast. Our first Chief Justice of the Supreme Court is the half-black, half-white son of a Muslim Kenyan. We can even vacation in the new state of Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands when it gets to be too much. On the other side?
President Trump--he's been in office for the last fourteen years, something about the 22nd Amendment but honestly I stopped paying attention--has been demanding that we vacate America's spot on the Security Council, but we've told him that until his regime makes progress on human rights, he will not be allowed a visa to enter the free and independent boroughs of New York City.