Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs the "Don't Say Gay” law,...

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis signs the "Don't Say Gay” law, which bans teaching of LGBTQ topics from kindergarten through grade three, at a school on March 28 in Shady Hills, Florida. Credit: AP/Douglas R. Clifford

American Norexit?

One dares not mention the idea in polite company.  As the United States lurches toward a growing gap between those favoring banning books, ignoring climate change, overturning gay marriage, prohibiting transgender care, slandering would-be immigrants, making contraception more difficult to obtain, rewriting American history in our schools to leave out the repugnant parts, and now, overturning reproductive rights forcing women to bear children no matter the circumstances of their pregnancies, that idea is secession.  

But, as regrettable as the idea of ending our union may be,  it is time to debate whether red states and blue should continue in a failing marriage or simply admit irreconcilable differences and go  our separate ways.

When I float secession among friends and neighbors in blue Connecticut, they either roll their eyes in disbelief or regard me with the same pity as surely once greeted Michael Gove and Boris Johnson when they suggested dropping out of the EU.  But if you live in a blue state, think about what is going on and whether it makes sense to spend the next few decades battling over divisions as stark as once divided this nation over slavery.

This is a nation where legislators pass laws prohibiting conversations about homosexuality in schools, want to revisit laws permitting interracial marriage, encourage neighbors to spy on and report possible misdeeds to the police, allow gun purchases with no background checks or training, permit open carry of loaded weapons everywhere, fight against universal health care coverage, ban evolution in the classroom, restrict bathroom usage by birth gender, parrot lies about grooming kids for sex trafficking and gay indoctrination, and on and on and on.  

Given the unacceptability of these policies and positions to many Americans in blue states, why should they risk losing their rights, their tolerance and their faith in the truth trying to squeak by in elections to just barely keep hate, misogyny, racism, lies and religious zealotry at bay? 

If our nation is not bound by common values, if citizens in many states no longer want to risk losing out to hate and fear, then isn’t it time to start talking about a Northern secession — a Norexit?

How would this work?  What happens to the liberals and progressives living in Charlottesville, Austin, Atlanta or Durham?  Well, nothing.  They may choose to stay and continue the fight against radical know-nothings and white supremacists or join those with similar values in the North. Economically, New York, Oregon, California, Massachusetts, and New Jersey will have a huge advantage recruiting a workforce, doing better than companies based in states that try to disempower women, gays, minorities, those with disabilities in need of health coverage, and immigrants.  The same suggestion would apply to those New Yorkers who feel as isolated as liberals in Atlanta or Durham, continue the fight or move to places where there are more people who like you.

Will we have trade issues as Brexit created?  Not if we can negotiate to each new nation’s mutual advantage. Can we at least have a common defense?  Sure, both nations can join NATO.

Some say the answer is not a Norexit but rather more states' rights.  That makes no sense. Why should the North continue to subsidize states whose policies they despise?  What moral message is sent when we say we can live side by side in a loose federation with hate, injustice, racism and intolerance?  If the values glue that holds us together has worn very thin, then isn’t the responsible course to take to explore peaceful separation rather than continue with poisoned politics and with fooling ourselves that we in the North really don’t care what is going on in the red states because of states' rights?  

Many states and Canada are talking about creating paths for women seeking abortions. Companies are promising to fly employees who seek abortions out of state.  Are we really ready to live as one with those who would have women relive the underground railway days of the Civil War?

I am exhausted trying to accommodate those who impugn elections, lie about seditious assault on the capital and engage in voter suppression at every turn.   

Enough.  Morality demands we think hard about keeping the union if we are a house divided over the values that no longer  cement this divided nation. 

This guest essay reflects the views of Arthur Caplan, director, Division of Medical Ethics at New York University's Grossman School of Medicine.