Sunday, September 26, 2010

More of Bill Kauffman's (& Robert Frost's) "Insubordinate Americans"

I had my doubts whether fellow Western New Yorker Bill Kauffman could pull it off with his latest — Bye Bye, Miss American Empire: Neighborhood Patriots, Backcountry Rebels, and their Underdog Crusades to Redraw America's Political Map. The topic, I thought, might be too narrow compared to the previous works of his I'd read. I was wrong. This is perhaps his best book to date.

In it, we are introduced to everyone from the folks behind the Hartford Convention "during the War of 1812 in which New England's opposition to the war reached the point where secession from the United States was discussed" to the contemporary Second Vermont Republic movement. We meet the restless natives trying to restore the Kingdom of Hawaii and the culturally conservative Catholics like Pedro Albizu Campos at the founding of the Puerto Rican Independence Party, not to mention those who've attempted to liberate West Kansas from Topeka, Upstate New York from Downstate (and vice versa), and Brooklyn from New York City.

As in all of Mr. Kauffman's books, countered is the dictum that "might makes right." The losers in political debates of the past, those relegated to the footnotes of history, deserve a hearing, and often they make more sense than the winners. (Why is California one state not three?) Also, we learn our history with belly laughs; about mutual hero Grover Cleveland he interjects: "Just another three-hundred-pound lardass from Buffalo sitting on a barstool and cursing the Bills? I don't think so."

I'm happy to have added this great book to my Kauffman library:

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Omnes Sancti et Sanctæ Coreæ, orate pro nobis.