Recently, I’ve been having a recurring little daydream. It’s a practical impossibility but as Trump pushes forth on his war on Muslims and immigrants, it’s given me some small succor. What if my home, New York City — that proud bastion of true liberty — seceded?
It turns out that in 2004, New York Magazine had the same thought. That year, the city happened to be the hosting the Republican National Convention. And the GOP set upon invading their town, the good ol’ libs over at NYMag took that as provocation to imagine “The Independent Republic of New York.”
It was a thought exercise, one playfully but realistically rendered. On the one hand: “The city can, if necessary, generate 80 percent of its own electricity, because it’s required by law to have the capacity to do so.” On the other: “It’s hard enough to find transfer stations for our sanitation.”
Ultimately, reading it at first gives you a real feeling of hope. Sure, you have to put aside the fact that NYC secession would never actually happen (for one, unilateral secessions tend to lead to civil war). And then you think: this could happen! Writes the reporter, Jennifer Senior:
Consider: If New York were its own country, its army, the New York City Police Department, would be the twentieth-best-funded army in the world, just behind Greece and just ahead of North Korea. Its GDP, $413.9 billion, would be the seventeenth largest, just behind the Russian Federation and just ahead of Switzerland. With more than 8 million residents, it would be more populous than Ireland, Switzerland, or New Zealand; roughly half the countries in the Middle East (including Israel); most of the former republics of the Soviet Union; and all the Scandinavian countries besides Sweden.
New York is already an island off the coast of the United States. And its mayors already act like heads of state.
Reading it, I felt empowered. Whatever happens in the next four years, I thought, Trump’s vision of America will never fully take over New York. Spiritually at least, NYC can try to secede.
And then I kept reading, and I was brought down to earth.
I came to the end of the article — what we in the game refer to as the “kicker.” A reminder: this was written in 2004, when Trump was not our ruling xenophobic demagogue, but a mere tabloid buffoon who’d scared up a second coming as as reality show gadfly. For New York Magazine, he was a kind of a running character. Or, perhaps, their king?
Our primary mission would be to defend ourselves and only ourselves, just like the Swiss: There’d be no training to fight in deserts or the Arctic, no heavy equipment devoted to razing jungles and boring into caves. Install a couple of surface-to-air missiles under the Brooklyn Heights promenade and call it a day. Or better yet, let Donald Trump build a fortress on the West Side, paint it gold, and crown it with his name in four-story neon lights. That would scare off any barbarians at the gate, sure as a Scud.
All that’d be left would be normalizing relations with the United States. It’d be ugly at first, but eventually we’d find that special someone, that perfect ambassador who both speaks the red-state language but still unambiguously represents New York. Again, I’m thinking the Donald. I have two words for you, Mr. Trump: You’re hired.
An unexpected, strange, but necessary reminder — this is no time for daydreams.