Thursday, September 26, 2013

Modoc County Joins Siskiyou in Seeking to Split from California as State of Jefferson

It’s 1941 again in northern California
Siskiyou County, a large jurisdiction in the forested interior of northern California, is as of this week no longer the only county trying to revive an aborted 1941 secession of California–Oregon border regions as a new State of Jefferson.  Siskiyou’s board of supervisors heard a statehood proposal last month (as reported at the time in this blog), which they put to a vote (also reported on in this blog) on September 3rd, coming out 4 to 1 in favor of Siskiyou seceding—by itself as need be—from California.  Last week, I reported here that Jeffersonian separatists were hearing words of support and interest from no fewer than 15 California counties.  Of the original “Jefferson” counties in southern Oregon, only Klamath County, which borders Siskiyou to the north, seemed intrigued.  Tehama County, California, seemed to have the most buzz going, though it was not in the original 1941 borders envisioned for the state and does not border Siskiyou.  (For more detail on the Jefferson movement, read my recent article from this blog.)

However, Modoc County, an original 1941 Jefferson county, promised to put the matter to a vote as well.  They did, and on September 20th voted 4-0 in favor of joining Siskiyou in a State of Jefferson.

And they have their sights set on pulling more counties up onto the bandwagon as well.  On September 24th, Rex Bohn, a district supervisor in Humboldt County, on the coast, an original Jefferson county to Siskiyou’s southwest, told a reporter, “I think this is resonating in some of our more rural counties, like Siskiyou and Modoc.  Maybe this will wake the sleeping giant.”  He added, “If there’s a group of citizens that would like to see this further looked into, I think as elected officials we have to look at everything.”  But he said he feared “taking a bunch of poor counties and forming a poor state.”

Humboldt County—“Home of the Redwoods!” ... and, um, all sorts of vegetation, actually
Modoc is named for a subgroup of Shoshone Indians who fought one of the last Indian wars of the Old West, in the 1870s in the lava beds of what are now Siskiyou and Modoc counties.  The battleground of the Modoc Wars is now the Lava Beds National Monument.  Nor is brutal racism is not merely in the distant past in this tiny scrap of land on the Nevada and Oregon borders: Modoc County was also home to the Tule Lake War Relocation Center, a concentration camp for Japanese-Americans during the Second World War.

From Indian-fighting to Japanese-American internment,
kicking people when they’re down is an old Modoc County tradition.
Mark Baird, of the Jefferson Declaration Committee, said of the Modoc vote, “California is essentially ungovernable in its present size.”  However, Siskiyou and Modoc splitting away won’t make California any more governable, in that view.  They are two of the largest of California’s 58 counties in area, forming just over 10% of the state’s land.  But, with just under 55,000 people, the two counties have less than a fiftieth of 1% of California’s population, which is the most populous of the 50 states.  A separate Jefferson state consisting of Siskiyou and Modoc would rank 42nd in size, between West Virginia and Maryland (assuming Maryland’s five westernmost Appalachian counties do not succeed in forming their own state).  Population-wise, this two-county Jefferson State would rank dead last, at no. 51, behind the current least-populous state, Wyoming.  It wouldn’t be a close 51st either: Wyoming would have 10 times Jefferson’s population.  The Northern Mariana Islands, a United States overseas commonwealth in Micronesia, would be the only U.S. jurisdiction with fewer people, and then only by a few.  Jefferson would also be the state with the fewest counties, beating Delaware, with its three counties, by one.  (Only 48 states have counties: Alaska is divided into boroughs, which are governed very differently, while Louisiana’s counties are called parishes.)

It’s also worth noting that Siskiyou, Modoc, and Humboldt do not have very substantive complaints about being in California other than ideological differences, as rural Republican strongholds in an overwhelmingly liberal Democratic state.  Water is, as always, an issue, but local fears of a looming apocalypse of gun confiscations, gay group marriages, yoga and astrology in the public schools, and shari’a are, to say the least, overstated.  As the 51st state, Jefferson’s main exports would be water, marijuana (especially if Humboldt joined), and ignorance.

[Also, for those who are wondering, yes, this blog is tied in with a forthcoming book, a sort of encyclopedic atlas to be published by Auslander and Fox under the title Let’s Split! A Complete Guide to Separatist Movements, Independence Struggles, Breakaway Republics, Rebel Provinces, Pseudostates, Puppet States, Tribal Fiefdoms, Micronations, and Do-It-Yourself Countries, from Chiapas to Chechnya and Tibet to Texas.  Look for it some time in 2013 or 2014.  I will be keeping readers posted of further publication news.]

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