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Digital Civil War: Secession and Viral Petitions of Incivility

President Barack Obama was reelected in a tense and polarized political environment—we knew there would be anger, disappointment, and ranting tweets from Donald Trump—but secession?

In just one week since voting day, almost 700,000 people from all 50 states have signed petitions to secede from the union of the United States of America and to create their own new government. Although keep in mind that the names of the signatories have not been verified and anyone can sign as many petitions as they like.

Could this digital secession movement be an ominous sign a second Civil War brewing?

The push for secession began on November 7 when a man filed a petition to allow Louisiana to secede from the U.S. on the We The People forum on the White House website.

Giving new meaning to the nickname “The Lone Star State,” Texas leads the secession petitions with almost 100,00 signatures. Austin, the quintessential blue dot in a red state, has in turn filed a petition to secede from the rest of Texas.

Despite his criticisms of the Obama administration, GOP Texas Governor Rick Perry has made it clear that he opposes secession.

“Gov. Perry believes in the greatness of our Union and nothing should be done to change it,” press secretary Catherine Frazier wrote. “But he also shares the frustrations many Americans have with our federal government. Now more than ever our country needs strong leadership from states like Texas.”

Counter-petitions to “Deport Everyone That Signed A Petition To Withdraw Their State From The United States Of America” has over 15,000 signatures, and “Strip the Citizenship from Everyone who Signed a Petition to Secede and Exile Them” has nearly 10,000.

Any petition with more than the 25,000 signatures requires a response from the White House and leaves us wondering how heavily the divisive sentiment weighs on American unity in the wake of the president’s second term.

In Obama’s acceptance speech, the president addressed the strife amongst the American people.

“By itself, the recognition that we have common hopes and dreams won’t end all the gridlock, resolve all our problems or substitute for the painstaking work of building consensus and making the difficult compromises needed to move this country forward. But that common bond is where we must begin,” he said.

The real danger of a second Civil War isn’t actual armed conflict between the states, but rather a prolonged culture war that prevents people from working together to solve pressing problems.

Photo (cc) flickr user Jesse Newberry

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