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Burt Prelutsky / Apr. 18, 2020

United We Fall

I believe it is past time to remove "United" from "United States." It was Lincoln who said that a nation divided against itself could not stand, and he was right. But whereas he was arguing for the 13 Confederate states to submit to the will of the 20 Union states, I would argue for the independence of all 50 states.

I believe it is past time to remove “United” from “United States.” It was Lincoln who said that a nation divided against itself could not stand, and he was right. But whereas he was arguing for the 13 Confederate states to submit to the will of the 20 Union states, I would argue for the independence of all 50 states.

This nation is more divided today than it was in 1861. You merely have to look at the constant calls for President Trump’s impeachment by the members of the House and Senate from 20 states. Or consider how many states want to oppose the federal government by declaring themselves sanctuaries for illegal aliens, providing people who have no legal right to be here with drivers licenses, free schooling, free health care and voting rights.

The point is further driven home by the fact that states that have shown no signs of falling victim to the Chinese virus are being told to take the same job-killing precautions as high-density states like New York and California.

One size doesn’t fit all during an epidemic and one size won’t fit all when the virus eventually subsides.

Is there any conceivable reason why when fully half the people in the country loved having Barack Obama in the White House while the other half credit God with replacing him with Donald Trump, the two sides shouldn’t seek an amicable divorce?

I used to think it would be nice if states like California, Oregon, Washington and Hawaii could form a nation with Illinois, New York, New Jersey, Maryland and the states of New England, but, unlike the way it was with the Confederacy, it is not geographically feasible.

It seems to me that the best, most logical, solution is for us to use Europe as a model. We are roughly the same size. In fact, we are nearly duplicates of each other.

Europe is slightly larger, 10,180,000 square kilometers to our 9,833,000 kms. We have 50 states, they have 44 nations. Their GDP is a combined $19.9 trillion, ours is $19.4 trillion. They have more people, 511 million compared to our 325 million.

They have millions of Arabs and Muslims who shouldn’t be there; we have many more millions of illegal Latinos who shouldn’t be here.

What would be the downside if each state was a sovereign nation. We could trade across borders without tariffs. If some foreign power tried to invade, say, Virginia, I have no doubt that red state neighbors North Carolina, Tennessee, West Virginia and Kentucky would all join blue state Maryland in coming to her defense.

Of course, in spite of being surrounded by Oregon, Washington and Nevada, if Mexico were to attack California, the Golden State might very well have to go it alone. Nobody really likes California, after all. Besides, considering that the state has declared itself a sanctuary, Governor Newsom would probably just stand by and salute as the Mexican flag rose majestically over El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora de los Angeles del Rio Porciuncula.


Although most major companies have supported the President’s efforts to fight the coronavirus, 3M has seen fit to deny the state of Florida the surgical masks it needs because there are nations out-bidding them on the open market. By the time President Trump gets done with these war profiteers, they’ll be lucky if they’re not the 1M Corporation.

This is one of those cases where when a company is said to be making a killing, it could be a literal truth.

Still, I can’t help wishing that for once, we followed Sweden’s lead. The government has been telling the people to stay home if they’re sick or over the age of 70, but to otherwise get back to work. So far, it’s working. In a nation of over 10 million, 308 have died.

Pro-rated, that would amount to roughly 10,000 dead Americans. Even though I am in the high risk group, I’d say that is an acceptable number, even if I were to be one of the 10,000 or 20,000 or 30,000, when the alternative is to risk a full-blown Depression.

We have already seen an uptick in domestic violence and suicides, and the lockdown hasn’t even reached the one month mark.

Even if we save a few thousand lives, while ignoring the 40,000-50,000 that will die of the less-fashionable flu, it’s not worth shutting down schools and businesses, closing churches and putting half of America’s work force on the unemployment rolls.

I’m willing to bet that with people being forced to stay home — free of workplace prohibitions against smoking — there’s a lot more puffing going on these days. Are we suddenly supposed to stop paying attention to all those tobacco-related deaths we’re constantly being hit with, courtesy of the Cancer Society?


A strange coincidence: The other day I was reading a novel and came across “to pile Pelion on Ossa,” an expression I had never heard before. From the context, I understood it meant don’t go out of your way to add more troubles to the ones you already bear. That same afternoon, I checked out my daily Wordsmith and came across “In Greek Mythology, the twins Otus and Ephialtes piled Mount Pelion on Mount Ossa and both on Mount Olympus in an attempt to reach heaven and attack the gods.”

That reminded me that for some strange reason, I seem to be the only person who ever capitalizes Heaven as a place name even though I don’t really believe it exists.


I am fortunate to have a friend who owns a restaurant and has the good sense to realize that if people are allowed to enter and collect pick-up meals, there’s no good reason they can’t sit down and eat in comfort. So I was sitting, awaiting the arrival of my lunch companion.

Even though she was only two minutes late, which is pretty good even in the lighter traffic caused by the lockdown, I was getting twitchy. That forced me to wonder why those two minutes affected me the way that two hours late would effect normal people.

I realized that my heightened sense of punctuality goes back to my childhood. Starting when I was about nine years old, my cousin, who was about 16 or 17, would invite me to attend the stage musicals at the old Philharmonic theater situated in downtown L.A., where she ushered on Saturdays.

Because we lived far from each other, we would take different buses to get there. Inevitably, I would arrive first, but that was because of the bus schedule. Her bus was scheduled to arrive five minutes after mine, and we would then walk the five or six blocks to the theater. But, because Pearl lacked my punctuality, she wasn’t always on that bus. I would then begin to worry. Had she suddenly taken ill? Had she said we’d meet on 6th Street instead of 4th Street? Should I stroll down the two blocks and check? But what if she arrived at 4th Street and didn’t find me there? She generally arrived 10 minutes later on the next bus, but that was no comfort at all the next time she was late.

The fact that I endured this punishment for three more years was only because I enjoyed the shows so much. There is nothing to match hearing the overture to, say, “Carousel” or “South Pacific” or “Guys ‘n’ Dolls,” if you’ve only heard a few of the songs before.

On one memorable occasion, we were watching “Peter Pan” with Mary Martin and Cyril Ritchard, when the light representing Tinker Bell began to flicker ominously and Peter Pan came to the edge of the stage and asked us all to clap, promising that only our applause could save her.

I didn’t care for audience participation any more at eight than I do at 80, so when I didn’t join the others, the woman sitting behind us leaned forward and said: “Little boy, don’t you want Tinker Bell to live?” I turned around and said: “I know the story. She’ll live even if nobody claps.”

Ah, what a delightful little chap I was.

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