"You Can't Govern Us; We Quit"

Secession anyone? The last time there was a groundswell of support for the states to secede from the union, we ended up fighting a bloody civil war. One hundred and fifty years later, there are new calls for secession. Just how serious is the new secession movement?

The mainstream press has not reported much on the rush of secession petitions posted on a website maintained by the White House. At week’s end, petitions had been filed from all 50 states. Texas leads the way, with more than 100,000 signatures on its petition. Connecticut’s petition had 2,500 or so signatures. 

It’s tempting to write the new secessionists off as a bunch of crybabies, or bored Tea Party members, looking for a new theme to rally around. The whole powdered wig thing has gone a little stale, after all. But do these new paper revolutionaries really want to fly the stars and bars at their next rally?

I suspect they do, and that’s what scares me.

The heaviest concentration of secessionist activity seems to be in the red states, those unhappy territories still reeling from the re-election of Barack Obama. If you juxtapose a pair of maps, one identifying slave states and territories just prior to the Civil War, the other identifying today’s Red states in thrall to the GOP, the result will shock you: Johnny Reb was voting Romney all the way in 2012.

But why secession now?

Demographics is destiny. Come 2040, Caucasians will become a minority in the United States. The day after election results were in, the GOP awoke to a brave new world: it’s no longer enough to appeal simply to white voters. People of color, Hispanics, Asians -- the new emerging majority -- have clout. 

I spoke at a community group in New Haven not long after the election. A state representative reported that fellow black activists were gleeful about the results of the election. It was a harbinger of the end of white world, or so they thought. 

The new secessionists sense this glee and are recoiling in terror. Their faux patriotism and expressed desire to leave the union is really just the last gasp of white privilege saying to people of color: “You can’t govern us, we quit.”

Of course, it’s not that simple. You can’t petition your way out of the union. Nothing in the Constitution yields a recipe for state secession. The last time states tried to do so, hundreds of thousands of men died.

I doubt many will die in this pathetic attempt at Civil War re-enactment. It’s one thing to play Internet rebel and sign a petition using a pseudonym; it’s another to raise arms, and seek to sever political ties with bloodshed. This new secessionism is about as revolutionary a risk as was taken by Tea Party masqueraders: lip synching about liberty and bellyaching about tyranny is meaningless when all your prepared to risk is the expense of tricorn hat or a lawn sign.

For how many years did the right taunt protestors of all sorts: “America, love it or leave it”?  They bashed the United Nations, war protestors and civil rights activists. Today they want to leave, but they want to take their property with them. 

The loss of privilege requires readjustment. The secessionists are kicking and screaming their way into a new world. But the union is not about to dissolve amid all this silliness; it will, however, change.

We live in interesting times, a time of ferment, and the forging of new expectations. We need to suffer the secessionists in our midst. They’ve pining away for a world that no longer exists. It’s no wonder they are frightened.

Reprinted courtesy of the Connecticut Law Tribune.



Time to Repeal the Second Amendment?

I’ll be starting trial this week in Norwich. My client is accused of murder. The victim was shot to death, point blank, with a hand gun. The gun has never been found. As near as I can tell from reading the police reports, a bunch of people were hanging out in a low-income neighborhood, rolling dice, getting stoned, and passing a communal bottle of alcohol. A hooded man walked up, pointed a handgun at the back of man’s head, and pulled the trigger. The shooting seems almost random, casual even.

I’ve seen far too many of these sorts of cases in recent years. They are far too common. Young men get in a beef about something, a girl, a slight, drugs, and then, someone returns with a gun. Shots are fired, and quick death is delivered courtesy of the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution. Dis’ me and die, sucker — that’s the new motto for patriots.

This right to bear arms, to transform our streets into killing fields, is overrated.

Why don’t we repeal the Second Amendment once and for all?

We love our guns. They are supposed to keep us safe and secure. Government is supposed to shudder at the prospect of an armed citizenry’s resorting to self-help to chase tyrants from office. That’s patriotic nonsense. We don’t revolt. Despite all our wild rhetoric about the dangers of federal tyranny, we’re a highly regulated and largely supine people. Every four years, a verbal war of words takes place prior to presidential elections. Then we settle down into a compliant torpor, moaning and groaning about government, but trusting and obeying every step of the way.

When we use our guns, we turn them against one another, and for the pettiest of reasons. The rhetoric supporting the right to bear arms does not match the reality of how we use them. We’re not concerned about foreign invasion, or federal tyranny: we just want the right to shoot our neighbors to death if they give us the evil eye.

We have the highest rate of gun ownership in the world: there are 88 guns per every 100 people in this country. We account for about 5 percent of the world’s population, but own at least 35 percent of the handguns in the world. Some estimates claim we own half the world’s handguns. The nation just behind us? Yemen, the land of a failed state and apocalyptic anarchy. The African nation has 55 firearms for every 100 people, according to statistics gathered by the United Nations.

I got in my share of fistfights as a kid, and I’ve been angry enough to kill on more than one occasion. But, to date, I’ve never shot at another human being. I expect to die without ever having fired a shot in anger. Somehow, I don’t think I’ll be on my death bed filled with regret.

I do recall the first time I saw a handgun in the hands of a child, however. I was in high school, at Edwin Denby High School in Detroit in the 1970s. I ran track briefly, and would get to the school early to run up and down the stairs before classes started. One day, I headed to the showers after my workout. It was early still. I heard two guys a row of lockers away whispering. Then I heard a whirling sound. When I peaked around the corner to see what was whirring, I saw a small black revolver in the hands of another student. It scared me. I gave up heading into school for morning runs. Not long after that, a classmate was shot to death in the parking lot in a drive-by shooting.

Then the man my mother was living with made new enemies, enemies who threatened to come to our home to exact vengeance on him. He took a handgun and sat in the front of our duplex waiting for visitors. I was assigned a rifle and told to keep an eye on the back of the house. My mother, frantic, was forbidden to call the police. We kept vigil, me wondering whether I’d have the courage to shoot, and hoping someone would arrive at the front of our house and put an end to the man who’d brought this violence into our home.

Detroit scared me; it scares me still. I left that city as fast as I could, vowing never to return. Now it appears Detroit is everywhere.

The killing fields have come to New Haven, Bridgeport, Waterbury, New London, Stamford. I’ve represented young men in each of the cities accused of using guns in acts of sometimes lethal violence. These are high school kids, or kids just out of high school. They get angry, enraged, and they reach for a weapon, letting bullets do what my fists used to accomplish when I was a man-child. We then lock these kids up for a lifetime, treating them as outcasts unfit to walk the streets with the rest of us. What a waste.

Where do all these guns come from? Who is dumping them into inner cities? What does arming high school kids have to do with the Second Amendment? Why do we even need to have handguns at all? Finally, why not harsh penalties for the purveyors of this cheap and easy violence?

It’s not persuasive to tell me the founders intended us to have hand guns. I doubt my ancestors ever heard of the United States when the Second Amendment became the law of the land. I frankly don’t much care what the founders had to say. I do care about safe streets, and wasted lives. Perhaps it’s time to repeal the Second Amendment; let’s send handguns the way of slavery. Or maybe we just want to fill the prisons with new slaves.


About Norm Pattis

Norm Pattis is a Connecticut based trial lawyer focused on high stakes criminal cases and civil right violations. He is a veteran of more than 100 jury trials, many resulting in acquittals for people charged with serious crimes, multi-million dollar civil rights and discrimination verdicts, and scores of cases favorably settled.

Personal Website

Law Firm Website

I believe that the state is a necessary fiction and that failing to combat it is the first step toward tyranny.
– Norm Pattis


Nothing in this blog should be considered legal advice about your case. You need a lawyer who understands the context of your life and situation. What are offered here are merely suggested lines of inquiry you may explore with your lawyer.

Pattis Video