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Splitsville USA Book Talk: A Necessary Discussion

Malcolm Streitfeld

Anchor Staff Writer


Flyer by Rhode Island College

Last week I had the pleasure of attending a Book Talk at RIC’s James Adams Library. Author Christopher Zurn, a professor at UMass Boston, talked about his book “Splitsville USA.” The novel presents a solid and well-constructed argument for why the United States of America should dissolve itself into several smaller nations. He was very funny but certainly didn’t mince words. Afterwards, the audience was allowed to ask him questions, which resulted in a very thoughtful and intelligent discussion on the future of our country. I have not yet read the book, but I do have a lot of thoughts based on what I heard during the Book Talk, which I shall proceed to discuss with you. 


First off, the basics. Zurn made it clear that our Constitution has been problematic from the very beginning. He explained that there is a part of the Constitution that does not allow slavery to be prohibited before 1808. The slave trade had to be allowed to continue before that year. This section is impossible to amend and remains a part of the document to this day. In addition to this, the individuals in both the Senate and the Supreme Court have repeatedly proven themselves threats to democracy. The more I listened to Zurn, the more I found myself agreeing with what he had to say, even if I had trouble taking in his words due to information overload. 


I personally think that if it means the United States can recover and better itself as a country, it should dissolve. Zurn addressed every single possible counterargument effectively, in the process answering one of my questions before the meeting. I had wondered if there were any possible alternatives to this solution. Zurn made it clear that it would be very hard to advocate for legislative reform on this scale. Rallying people around a cause like this is a tricky thing to achieve. Amending the Constitution especially is difficult, since such a motion passing requires the approval of 3/4ths of state legislatures. Using maps, Zurn described how the United States would divide itself into smaller regions corresponding to how the states relate to each other culturally and geographically. 


Zurn is also hilarious. He approached the subject with a jocose air that I have not seen much of in authors like himself. Because of this, his speech and delivery was not dry or boring and I found myself engaged throughout. He was lighthearted but blunt in his approach. A lot of what he covered in the discussion was completely new to me. Zurn established at the beginning of the Book Talk that he wrote “Splitsville USA” in a way that laymen would be able to understand.

At one point during the Q&A, I asked how the USA dissolving itself would impact its relationships with other countries. Zurn admitted that he wasn’t entirely sure due to not being an expert in that particular area himself. He said that the answer to that question lies with how people see the United States. If you see the United States in a negative light, then you may see it dissolving itself as a good thing. On the other hand, if you have a positive view of the country, you may see it as a bad thing. Ultimately all of this is speculative. It is very hard to predict how people in this country and in other countries would react if the United States were to dissolve itself.


I recommend “Splitsville USA” for anyone looking for a thorough understanding on what makes the United States what it is, as well as the problems it faces in the future. You can email Zurn asking for a free PDF of the book and he will gladly reciprocate. I’m glad I could attend his Book Talk. 




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