Get A Rope

by L. Neil Smith
Patronize Me!

Attribute to L. Neil Smith’s The Libertarian Enterprise

First published in Sierra Times August 2001

You may have noticed that the shingle I’ve chosen to hang out at Sierra Times is inscribed “Rotate the Border”. You may even wonder what it means.

My novel Pallas (Tor, 1993), is a family saga of interplanetary pioneers that might as well have been titled Little House on the Asteroid. It won me a second Prometheus Award, and even got me a couple of death-threats (because of the cruel way I treated one of my characters). I have a sequel ready to write if I ever find a publisher smart enough to buy it.

All the action occurs on Pallas, the second largest asteroid, but there’s a well-developed historical “back story”, and events on Earth influencing the lives of the settlers on Pallas. One is that—although the lines on the map are the same as those we know—by the second half of the 21st century, western Americans have discovered that they have more in common with western Canadians than with eastern Americans.

By the time of the novel, western North Americans have become so fed up with taxes draining them and alphabet agencies standing in the way of everyday life, that they’ve stopped sending representatives to Washington and Ottawa. For practical purposes the U.S./Canadian border has been rotated 90 degrees, somewhere in the vicinity of western Illinois.

The two entities either side of what I call the “Webb Line” (after Walter Prescott Webb, a sagacious New Deal historian among the first to notice there are two distinct cultures developing in this country) are called “West America” and “East America”. EPA agents and other unconstitutional intruders who venture west of the Webb Line tend to disappear, because they come to embrace the freedom of West America and defect (our womenfolk are better looking, too, and have more character), or because West Americans deal with them the way they should be dealt with (hence the title of this essay).

In the novel, pundits argue that the West American boycott has backfired. As during the War between the States, the government has simply appointed hacks to fill the places of missing westerners. The result is that the government can do anything it likes and expect to have it rubberstamped. But there’s little East America can do to take advantage of the situation. California has just been shattered by “The Big One”, an earthquake that killed millions and plunged the country into a depression. The government is preoccupied with rebuilding its left coast colonies and can’t afford to enforce its dictates elsewhere.

At the time I wrote Pallas, there was lots of talk about a “Sagebrush Rebellion”, supposedly a western reaction to being the source of the rest of the country’s food, lumber, and minerals, their garbage dump (a reference to nuclear waste), and the place where Soviet missiles would fall first, to keep retaliatory missiles from being launched out of silos buried mostly in the west. Even the socialists who call themselves “liberals” (unintentionally comical Governor Dick Lamm, Colorado’s equivalent to Jerry Brown, among them) got in on the act, and the establishment media tried hard to make it appear that the rebellion was led by them, and was entirely of their creation.

It was not, of course, but a concept that appeals to folks clear across the spectrum is an idea whose time has come. One glance at the famous USA Today map of the 2000 election drives it home. The greater portion of this country, geographically, is in what’s starting to be called the “Red Zone”, where people didn’t vote for Bush so much as they voted against Gore and eight miserable years of the Clintons. Look at the county-by-county map, instead of the state-by-state: even most of Oregon, Washington, and California went against Waco Willie’s surrogate.

The other color on the map was blue, and the Blue Zone’s hold on America grows more tenuous every day. What was it Leia said to Moff, about “the more you tighten your grip, the more star systems will slip between your fingers”? Recent events at Klamath tend to bear that out. The Red Zone—”Flyover Country” as it’s snidely described by useless necktied wussies who can’t gut a deer or even clean a trout, but believe they own our lives—is fed up with insanities like drying up more than a thousand farms to keep some “endangered” species of fish flopping.

I’d suggest another word for it. Although he later denied he said it, unintentionally comical Governor Dick Lamm was famous once, for 15 Warholian minutes, for arguing that old people use up too many resources in their declining years and it’s their duty to die and get out of the way for the next generation. (Now he’s an old guy himself, I wonder if he still feels that way.) Looking at it from a Darwinian viewpoint I’d say the same is true of species of fish more correctly called “unfit”.

And the same goes for birds or bugs or worms.

I like fish and birds and bugs and worms as much as anyone else (maybe more; biology was my favorite subject), but if one human is inconvenienced by as many as two minutes, I say put ’em out of our misery, no matter how cute and fuzzy they are. Vermin don’t vote. They don’t pay taxes. Why should they survive at the expense of organisms that do?

I suspect my attitude is shared by enough people in the Red Zone that it’s going to get harder for Blue Zoners to get the compliance they demand. I don’t necessarily mean we’re a majority; history was never made by a majority and never will be. The Bolsheviks were only three percent of the Russian population, American Revolutionaries only about 30. At some point it’s going to make more sense to minions of East America to quit trying and absent themselves before somebody does it for them.

We’re a long way from that point yet, but there’s a light at the end of this cliche. All West Americans need to do is stand their ground and remember that it doesn’t matter whether our oppressors are Republican or Democratic. Neither party will ever liberate us. What we require them to be, first and foremost, is out of sight and out of mind.