Eleven of my dad’s first cousins fought for the United States in World War II, many of them landing on the shores of Europe during or immediately following the Allied invasion of Normandy. Cousin Arthur, having survived Omaha Beach, sent my father, then age 13, an eerily casual postcard from Luxembourg in November 1944, to this day one of my dad’s proudest possessions. Cousin George, having escaped Germany in 1939, quickly enlisted in the U.S. Army to utilize his perfect German dialect and mannerisms serving as an interrogator of Nazi prisoners
Other cousins, still stranded in Europe, fought in the resistance before eventually becoming loyal American citizens. My father and his older brother served in the U.S. Army during the Korean War era, my dad as a radio communications specialist.
As children we were taught the utmost reverence for the United States, its Constitution, and its emphasis on liberty. Countless stories of persecution and pogroms underscored the sense of good fortune in being a free American instead of a second-class Austrian, German or Pole. The generation of my family born here in the U.S. in the 60s, while not expected to pursue military careers, had implicit marching orders to give back through professional work and personal lives. My own adult life has been filled with countless pro bono efforts, self-funded urban renewal projects, and housing numerous Americans and visiting foreigners in times of need that included hurricane devastation, financial crisis, and just plain hard luck.
The longstanding patriotism of my family has been a blessing and a curse—both giving me direction while at the same time proving exhausting and never-ending. That same patriotism is pushed so deep into my pores I suspect it’s worked its way into several of my 46 chromosomes.
And now it’s over. The time has come to secede.
I still love what I recognize of my country, but so much is unrecognizable. It’s not the rise of Donald Trump that has me resigned to the reality of a nation split. Rather it’s the fundamental shift in the national mindset that made Trumpism viable in the first place. Nothing highlights that shift better than the slaughter at the Tree of Life synagogue in suburban Pittsburgh over the weekend.
There are so many aspects to the slaughter that connect to the pathology of modern America. But for the present purposes we need only look at one. Since the expiration of the national ban on assault weapons in 2004—a watershed moment in the demise of America—I have written numerous articles expressing rage, frustration, and exasperation at the routine availability of these tools of destruction and the pointless death they have repeatedly wrought. In a 2013 article not long after Sandy Hook, I vomited my sense of utter despair and disillusionment by predicting that Sandy Hook was not a wakeup call, and that in fact a wakeup call on this issue was an impossibility no matter how horrific the forthcoming atrocities.
Over five years later, this cynical prediction has proved so accurate that the 2013 article could be reprinted with a few names and dates changed and passed off as my Tree of Life essay. Only one thing has really changed, which is my now nearly thorough acceptance of what needs to happen next.
There is no point in explaining to assault weapons lovers why these products should not be generally available or legal. I’ve said it all before, and you’ve batted it all down before with ludicrous historical parallels and self-serving drivel not supported by any statistics. But here’s the thing you don’t know. I want you to have your AR-15s and AK-47s.
That’s right. I want you to raise your children in a land where no firearm of any size, versatility or deadly power is off limits to anyone with any sort of vile, baseless gripe or penchant for making the innocent pay. I just don’t want to live in that land with you.
There are other issues that might divide us—environmental regulation, voting rights, healthcare, and tax law to name just a few—but all of those are disputes, compromises and injustices I can continue to work through. Because in the cases of those issues, there are indeed both nuances and ample room to wall oneself off mentally and physically from many of the pernicious results. Death by assault weapon, however—for me, the people I know and care about, and any innocent man, woman or child mindlessly and needlessly sacrificed to the NRA gods—is sudden, complete, beyond horrific, and absolutely irreversible.
Presently, there are seven enlightened states with some form of a ban on assault weapons. Five of them—New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Massachusetts and Connecticut—are clustered in the northeast. Throw in D.C. and we’re looking at a viable country comparable in size and population to France or the UK. With the possibility of adding in Delaware, Rhode Island, and the eastern sliver of Pennsylvania, the newly established Northeast America will be a reasonable and rational sovereign state with a reduced chance of taking home gold in the next Olympics but an excellent chance of becoming the foundation for a relatively peaceful civilization not bent on destroying itself.
To the millions of current Americans who love military grade firearms more than they love their fellow citizens, knock yourselves out. You bitch and moan and whine every day about how I want to take your deadly toys from you, but nothing could be further from the truth. I don’t want or expect anything from you. I could care less if you shroud yourself in plastique and plutonium detonated by chewing tobacco. I could give a damn if you show up to bowling league with locked and loaded Glocks and .38s protruding ominously from every orifice. I will lose exactly zero sleep if your basement is a cache of firearms and ammo so deep a lit match in the wrong place will make the Waco Branch Davidian compound look a four-year-old’s birthday cake.
Please, do all these things and more in a place legally and geographically distinct from the land where I will one day help raise grandchildren without the fear of being butchered during their bar mitzvah.
A great Republican who today probably couldn’t get elected solicitor general of Illinois once said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” That was true before we fell. Now that we’ve not only fallen but hit bottom, it’s time to get back up—separately, if necessary. But for right now, vote. We have one last chance.