Catalonia has voted to secede from Spain. This is a remarkable development in modern Western civilization, particularly in the age of the modern bureaucratic unitary imperial State. It signals that not all Europeans agree with the borderless European Union pushed by the political class and that culture and true nationalism still mean something. The shocking Paris attacks this past weekend put an exclamation point on that belief. Catalonia is more French than Spanish and only part of Spain because of dynastic happenstances in the early modern period. The Catalonian people are seeking to preserve their cultural identity in a world that is quickly becoming less regionally identifiable, at least in the West. They see the only solution is separation from the cancer.

Predictably, the Spanish government has called the vote illegal and there are several large roadblocks to Catalonian independence, but the idea that the modern State with is vast resources and nightmarish bureaucracy is better at protecting life, liberty, property, and most importantly “happiness” is under siege in Europe, and justifiably so. Europe is being invaded and the people—at least a vocal remnant of true Western civilization—are reacting.

The same cannot be said for the United States. President Obama’s briefing after the Paris attacks highlighted “universal values” of all of “humanity.” This is a subtle though striking slap at Western civilization. There are no “universal values” nor any values of humanity. Not all cultures share the same beliefs, customs, traditions, or “values,” at least not traditional Western values. While Europeans are engaging in a retrenchment of what made “happiness” possible in a civilized society, it seems most Americans are continuing to abandon those values in continual rush for the newest consumer craze. Tradition does not mesh with expensive gadgets and trifling over $4 coffee cups.

The counterweight has long been the Southern tradition, both politically and culturally. It is the last vestige of American conservatism. This is why it was no shock to see two hit pieces on the traditional South appear in the same week.

The first from columnist Joshua Holdenried contended that altering the Mississippi State flag or simply removing it until it is changed would be the “conservative” approach to take. The other was an overt assault on the modern American “Tenth Amendment” movement in the USA Today under the title, “Secrecy, corruption and conflicts of interest pervade state governments.” This piece concluded, “The results may be deflating to the two-thirds of Americans who, according to a recent poll, look to the states for policy solutions as gridlock and partisanship has overtaken Washington.”

Holdenried is advancing the neoconservative approach to American politics, and even invokes Robert E. Lee, Edmund Burke, Russell Kirk, and G.K. Chesterton to defend his position. To Holdenried, the Mississippi State flag is neither conservative nor traditional, and because the flag would be changed through a democratic process, the people of Mississippi should embrace the result and accept the decision as Lee would have supposedly done. But he misses the point. The State flag does represent the Southern tradition, namely the legacy of 1776, American self-government, true American federalism, and the Christian agrarian order, a more substantial calling than simply a defense of race and slavery. The “battle flag” is the one lasting symbol of the conservative South and if it is removed, that South suffers another blow, even if the fist that delivers it is through majority plebiscite in Mississippi or an act of the legislature in South Carolina.

The USA Today piece fails to recognize why Americans are rushing to support State power. It is not because they fundamentally believe that State governments are Utopian systems of efficient administration; it is because their culture and traditions are under attack from an alien people, namely outsiders—even Americans from other States and regions—who do not share their values. The modern “State’s rights” movement is a recognition that even in the United States there are no “universal values” and that the “pursuit of happiness” is being destroyed by aggressive and unconstitutional federal power. Many State governments are corrupt, but can anyone with a bit of integrity declare that the federal Leviathan is less corrupt or that the political class in Washington D.C. has any shred of integrity?

The Southern tradition is under assault because it represents the last vestige of opposition to the modern American empire, both foreign and domestic. The South retained the Jeffersonian promise that when governments failed to protect the life, liberty, and property of the people, it was their right to alter or to abolish that government and to institute a new government that protected their “safety and happiness.” This tradition is worth exploring and defending, and Southerners should not let outside forces hijack and debase their history and society.

Alas, Southern symbols will continue to fall, because while Catalonia is rallying around a common heritage and culture, Southerners are rushing to abandon theirs. The nobles of France did the same thing in the early stages of the French Revolution, believing that appeasement would result in a more stable society and would allow them to maintain power. The bloody streets of Paris told another story. That should serve as sufficient evidence that the opposition will never relent until the old order, tradition, is eradicated by any means necessary.

Brion McClanahan

Brion McClanahan is the author or co-author of six books, How Alexander Hamilton Screwed Up America (Regnery History, 2017), 9 Presidents Who Screwed Up America and Four Who Tried to Save Her (Regnery History, 2016), The Politically Incorrect Guide to the Founding Fathers, (Regnery, 2009), The Founding Fathers Guide to the Constitution (Regnery History, 2012), Forgotten Conservatives in American History (Pelican, 2012), and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Real American Heroes, (Regnery, 2012). He received a B.A. in History from Salisbury University in 1997 and an M.A. in History from the University of South Carolina in 1999. He finished his Ph.D. in History at the University of South Carolina in 2006, and had the privilege of being Clyde Wilson’s last doctoral student. He lives in Alabama with his wife and three daughters.

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