There is the possibility that, in a time of crisis that we can't predict now, what if the pandemic flu of the variety that struck the world at the end of World War I were to take place where suddenly you have everybody in the world becoming sick and staggering mortality rates, like some epidemiologists predict? Or you have some horrific terrorist attacks greater than 9/11 of the sort that we hope don't happen, but we know there are people who are out there who would like to cause them to happen. It's hard to say. What if you actually had to declare martial law and have to suspend most of our liberties because it really was a crisis that required that. If there's a pandemic you'd need to be able to stop people from moving from place to place and defend hospitals and those kinds of things.

What would happen in the aftermath of such an event like that? It's hard to know, but given the fractures and the political differences we have in a time of peace, at least domestic peace, it does give you cause to pause. There are scenarios you could imagine where the status quo is brutally shaken and it's hard to say whether or not everything would hold together in those kind of situations.

What I'm saying is there are these fault lines that can become active in a time of crisis. And I personally hope they don't because even though it's difficult for these separate regional cultures to live together under one roof, I fear from my time in the Balkans that separating such a place would be fraught with even greater dangers. Now, the optimistic spin is hey, we've been through a lot of crises as a federation before and somehow carried on through it. So one can hope that that would be what would happen in the case of a crisis going forward.

Our track record is fairly good at holding it together, so it's also entirely possible that we'd hold it together, but by no means assured.

If we wish to have this federation of ours, this United States, continue in something resembling its current form, it's really important that we respect this sort of shared bargain we all have, which is the Constitution as generally understood. Once you start pouring solvent on the basic understandings of what it does and doesn't mean, you're destroying one of the few adhesives that holds our sprawling and poly-national federation together.

YOU DO SAY AT ONE POINT IN THE BOOK THAT IF THE UNION IS GOING TO SURVIVE, AMERICANS "HAD BEST RESPECT THE FUNDAMENTAL TENETS OF OUR UNLIKELY UNION." BUT DOESN'T EVERYBODY MAKE THE DEAL FOR A DIFFERENT REASON? ISN'T PART OF YOUR POINT THAT EVERYBODY HAS A DIFFERENT FUNDAMENTAL TENET THEY'RE HANGING ON TO? They do, but the Constitution, it's a peculiar and in some ways self-contradicting document. Particularly as originally drafted. Slavery being one of the most obvious points. How could you have a democracy with the sort of lofty ideals that we think of, the United States as holding, and yet also allowing for some people to be counted as three-fifths of a human? By the way, that was considered a triumph by liberals and anti-slaveholders because they were trying to reduce the influence of the slave lords in the Congress. If they were able to count all their slaves as whole people, and obviously the slaves had no political independence to vote at all, or vote for anybody they wanted to. So that was actually a compromise to try to reduce slave power. Even though that is kind of forgotten today. Even worse than that framework, if slaves had been counted as whole people and yet had no political rights, that would have made things even more complicated.

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