By Gary Nelson
Senior staff writer
Remember the line in the classic movie The Wizard of Oz — "Pay no attention to the man behind the curtain"?
That's how I feel about all these "states" that are claiming they want to secede from the union of the United States of America.
In case you haven't heard, as of Thursday morning there are online petitions that have been signed on the White House's website by people from more than 39 states. Tennessee is one of the states represented in the petitions and has more than 28,000 signatures. According to the White House, if a petition receives more than 25,000 signatures it will receive a response from the president's staff.
These online petitions have been started by people who were unhappy about the results of the presidential election, or re-election, of President Barack Obama. The petitions read:
We petition the Obama Administration to peacefully grant the State of Tennessee to withdraw from the United States of America and create its own NEW government.
Petitions.whitehouse.gov allows anyone over age 13 to set up an online petition for the administration’s review. If it gets at least 25,000 virtual signatures in 30 days, someone will respond. The site doesn’t explain how or in what form. Several of the petitions have garnered well over the minimum amount of signatures.
Tennessee’s petition, launched Saturday, has more than 28,000 signatures.
Even the president of the Nashville Tea Party, heavily opposed to President Obama’s reelection, said he wouldn’t sign, The Tennessean reported.
“I think it’s just people showing their displeasure, especially those of us on the losing side of this election,” Ben Cunningham said.
Gov. Bill Haslam told the Tennessean earlier this week he’d heard about the petition. He’s not a fan, though.
“I don’t think that’s a valid option for Tennessee,” he said. “I don’t think we’ll be seceding.”
One thing that bothers me about the way the national media is reporting the online petitions is they are portraying it as if it's the state governments that are expressing a desire to secede from the Union.
That is not the case. The petitions are being started by anyone who has access to an Internet connection and is 13 years of age or older. Though the numbers may sound great, they hardly represent the majority of the population of these states.
The Knoxville News Sentinel reported the petition drive is just a way for angry voters to let off steam after a highly emotional and divisive campaign, said John Scheb, head of the political science department at the University of Tennessee.
Not only is secession unlikely, it's not even legally possible, Scheb said.
The U.S. Supreme Court ruled in 1869 that states cannot unilaterally secede from the union. "The position the court took was once in (the union), always in," Scheb said.
In response to these petitions, there are counter petitions that ask the rights of those who sign the secession petitions to be stripped of their rights as U.S. citizens.
It may just be an expression of displeasure, but some people are taking them seriously, such as the treasurer of the Roane County Tea Party Ron Harwell.
Harwell was quoted in the News Senitenel saying, "If we can't do better than getting a communist sitting in the White House, let's secede ... Let's get the hell out of Dodge. Let's find out what other options this country has."
These types of attitudes infuriate me. Not only is it disrespectful to the hundreds of thousands of veterans who have been killed fighting for our freedom, it's highly disrespectful to their families and all surviving veterans who have served our country.
Although our country and government is not perfect, I am thankful for it and the services we citizens are provided and the freedom we are given. And for the men and women who have fought for those rights and have fought to keep us safe and enjoying our rights and freedoms.
I have a simple solution for those who are serious about their wishes to secede from the union.
If you are so unhappy with this country and with our government — then leave. There are plenty of countries in the world where you may be happier. Nobody is forcing you to stay and be miserable in the United States of America.
I don't think anyone should take their freedom or rights for granted. If you are unhappy with this system, then leave.
The majority of the people shouldn't have to suffer and change their way of life in America because of your unhappiness. I am thankful for those who have served our country and for all of those in office who have helped make this great country what it is today.