I used to figure California should have its own macho motto like the one Texans love so much: "Don't Mess With Texas."
Then I looked it up, and do you know what that bring-it-on mantra is
really about? Littering. "Don't Mess With Texas" is a make-nice 1985
campaign slogan to persuade Texans to stop littering. In 1985, you
could legally go careening down a Lone Star State highway with a
tall-boy in one hand and a shotgun in the other, but if you tossed the
empty beer can or the 12-gauge shell casings out the window you'd get
busted by the tidy police. I'm trembling in my Tony Lamas, y'all.
Mindful of that, we really don't need no stinkin' motto, unless we want
to rework the Dust Bowl slogan "California or Bust" into "California or
Else." Because that's where matters stand now: There's California, and
there's everyplace else.
A few weeks ago, I argued in print for
restoring the California Republic in the event of a victory by
President Bush. As a solo act, California is the world's fifth- or
sixth-largest economy. We kept our assault weapons ban when the feds
let theirs expire. We support medicinal marijuana while the feds still
classify weed right up there with heroin and crack. The American
president wants the Constitution to ban gay wedlock once and for all;
the California governor says he doesn't care "one way or the other"
whether homosexuals get married.
To all of you, and
especially those who already applied to me for Cabinet positions in the
new California Republic, I must break this news: Erwin Chemerinsky, the
former USC constitutional scholar who is now residing in a secure,
undisclosed red state, informed me that there is simply no
constitutional mechanism for California to secede. I suppose we could
arrange a no-fault divorce, but think of the custody battles: They'd
get the creationism museum in Santee, we'd keep Yosemite. From there it
would get nasty.
So, I concluded, we don't need no stinkin' secession either. It's virtually a done deal already.
We are an island in all but fact, and as far as 16th century Spain was concerned, we were
an island in fact. "The Adventures of Esplandian" described "an island
called California," a land of cliffs and mountains populated by women
and ruled by a black Amazon queen whose air force of golden griffins —
like the winged monkeys of Oz — attacked hapless men.
20th century, we were a figurative "island on the land," splendidly
isolated by imagination and geography. And geologically, if you believe
disaster movies, one good shaker and California could snap off the
continent like a saltine cracker.
Economically, we've struck
out on our own too. Led by California, almost every one of the blue
states is a federal tax-donor state. We send more tax money to
Washington than Washington sends back to us, meaning the blue states
are subsidizing the very red states — those capitals of rugged
individualism like Alaska and North Dakota — that seem to loathe us.
Clearly, California, as the premier blue state, supposed bastion of
liberalism, can pay more federal taxes because it is more prosperous.
Why? Why does the Almighty allow this? Why do millions of us flourish —
people that a right-wing ad reviled as "latte-drinking, sushi-eating,
Volvo-driving … body-piercing, Hollywood-loving" Californians.
For one, Californians believe in gravity, not to mention stem cell
research. We don't stick science and innovation in the back seat while
religion drives the car. For two, in a nation founded on taking risks,
California still fervently practices what the rest of the country
preaches. It welcomes the new and different. Wherever you are from, you
too can grow up to become a Californian. And for three, your private
life is private.
Once, I wrote about the leader of a
California atheist group. A few weeks later came a letter from an
Oklahoma woman. She had read my column. She and her husband were
atheists too, but they didn't know any atheists in Oklahoma because
they were afraid to talk about it, so could I put her in touch with
this group? And did I think they'd send their literature in an unmarked
envelope so the mailman wouldn't find out? I ask you, would any
Californian you know give a rat's rump whether the mailman knew?
As I was writing this — amazing but true — I heard from state Atty.
Gen. Bill Lockyer's office about what's called Project California.
Short of snipping California's star out of the field of 50, his project
is about taking the tiller of the state's future. We must, Lockyer
says, "start thinking like a nation."
I'm with you, Bill. Just so long as that nation isn't, oh, France; our countrymen already think we're outré enough.
Patt Morrison's e-mail address is