Wyoming, Secession, and a Dwindling National Community?

There was an article yesterday in the Houston Chronicle about the state of Wyoming rejecting new science standards “mainly because of global warming components,” although apparently the teaching of evolution was also a concern. In and of itself, this did not strike me as peculiar, or unusual. But, the president of the Wyoming State Board of Education was quoted in the article as being hopeful that “we can’t get some standards that are Wyoming standards and standards we can all be proud of.” It was this remark that got me thinking about Lincoln’s enemies, who I believe have done their work all too well. In their ceaseless agitation for the right of secession, or resistance to federal authority, I think they have produced, at least indirectly, an atmosphere whereby entire states can with good conscience reject, or alter, the best science on offer for their students. I touched on this in the last chapter of my book:

“Attacking Lincoln was part of a long-term intellectual and manifestly political strategy to educate—or reeducate—the American public and reshape debate not only about Americans’ understanding of Lincoln but about their understanding of the means and ends of American democracy as well. Lincoln’s critics knew, as Lincoln himself stated in 1858, that ‘he who moulds public sentiment goes deeper than he who enacts statutes or pronounces decisions. He makes statutes and decisions possible or impossible to be executed.’ Two years earlier he had declared: ‘Our government rests in public opinion. Whoever can change public opinion can change the government.

Lincoln was exactly right, and his critics I think understand this today very well. As I also wrote in my last chapter:

“So, although Congressman Paul has correctly conceded that ‘no constitutional amendment will be passed to explicitly permit nullification or secession,’ he is nevertheless confident that ‘through a new relationship evolving out of current economic and political chaos, something approaching this goal is about to come.

The example of Wyoming, and I am sure it is not the only one readers of this blog can think of, makes one nearly lose hope over the possibilities of maintaining any sense of a national community in the face of such resistance. Nearly, but not entirely. One must “strive on,” as Lincoln once said, “to finish the work are in” to ensure that America remain a Union of hearts and hands as well as of States.”

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