This open-sided shed off Interstate 5 outside Yreka has promoted the “State of Jefferson” ever since I can remember. The idea is no closer to reality than ever. But the natives, some of them anyway, are getting restive. They’ve had enough.
The most obvious sign of unrest is the protest in Harney County, where men have occupied the empty headquarters of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and dared the authorities to do something about it. They seek to end federal control of vast western lands.
A much more traditional occasion was a rally in front of the Capitol in Sacramento earlier this month, in the rain. Scores of people from the northern California counties waved the double-cross flag of Jefferson, made speeches, gave interviews and presented petitions asking the Assembly to endorse the formation of a new state.
Meanwhile in Oregon, KATU in Portland did a story on an eastern Oregon farmer’s proposal to have Idaho annex the Oregon and Washington counties east of the Cascades.
All of these people, in their different ways, complain that laws passed and decisions made in Sacramento, Salem or Olympia hurt citizens in rural sections of their respective states, either by over-regulating or by ignoring them.
The events that dissidents stage or the proposals they make will come to nothing. Of that we can be sure. The protesters at the refuge will be crushed if they don’t leave on their own. Idaho won’t accept a big swath of territory that wants attention and money even if Oregon, Washington and Congress wanted to make the change. And the state of Jefferson will remain a slogan symbolizing a few people’s impractical hope.
Impractical? Well, I grabbed that photo while rushing past the shed and its slogan while driving on a multibillion-dollar highway, a beautiful road built and maintained in excellent shape largely with fuel taxes paid by all those millions of drivers in the metro jungles down south and up north.
But while the political boundaries won’t change — barring an upheaval far more violent and lasting than a rally or an “occupation” — these events have real causes. If lawmakers and bureaucrats in the state capitals are smart, or if they merely do their duty, they will stop treating citizens anywhere as though they don’t count. (hh)