Secession ain't quick and easy

Wiley A. Hall 3rd

April 16, 1991|By Wiley A. Hall 3rd

The bad thing about our quick and easy victory in the Persian Gulf is that now people seem to want to solve all of our problems with military force.

Yep, even Bullwinkle.

My buddy and I were hanging out at the Old Briar Patch the other day -- the way we do sometimes -- when talk sort of worked its way around to those folks down in South Baltimore who want to secede from the city.

Well, I suppose you've heard about it by now. People in neighborhoods like Curtis Bay, Fairfield and Brooklyn have decided they're just about fed up with Charm City, so they asked the legislature to let them put the matter of secession to a referendum.

The plan died in committee this session, but not before it got a lot more serious attention than it deserved.

You see, those rebels down south had complained that the city used their neighborhood as an industrial dumping ground.

They said the city's taxes are too high and the service is too poor and I guess those complaints made sense to a lot of legislators. The president of the Senate, after all, once described the city as a "ghetto" and a "war zone," so he probably sympathizes with anyone with sense enough to want out.

Anyway, the southern half of the city wanted to secede from the north and join Anne Arundel County, where I suppose taxes are low, service is fine, and everybody sits out on the front porch at sundown sipping mint juleps.

Ordinarily, I'd have said goodbye and good riddance to the whole lot of them. But, unfortunately, the city can't afford to lose the tax revenue they provide.

That's when Bullwinkle announced his modest proposal.

"If I were the mayor," he said, "I'd call out the militia and teach those rebels a lesson."

"What militia?" I said, thereby continuing the conversation way past the point at which it should have ended.

"If we don't have a militia," maintained Bullwinkle, "I'd use the city police. In fact, if I were the mayor, I'd use the city police to invade Anne Arundel and Baltimore County both and seize everything inside the Beltway. We could increase the city's tax base in one fell swoop."

I laughed out loud at this, but suddenly, everybody in the Old Briar Patch got real, real interested. Somebody got out a map and soon half the bar was planning military strategy. You'd have thought they'd all graduated with honors from West Point to hear them talk.

"Wouldn't work," said Gus, the bartender, gravely. "History has shown that you can't fight a war on two fronts."

Br'er Fox frowned at the map, stroking his pointy beard, thoughtful-like. "What we ought to do is concentrate on Baltimore County," he said. "We can sign a non-aggression pact with Anne Arundel County and let them have South Baltimore. South Baltimore, by their own admission, is a dumping ground anyway."

"A pincer movement," said Gus. "A lightning strike up Charles Street and York Road and we could take Towson before they knew what hit them."

"War," I said urgently, "is not something to be taken lightly."

"Get real," said Br'er Fox, "these are the Roaring Nineties. The mayor could become the George Bush of Maryland."

"Sounds to me that he'd be closer to the Saddam Hussein of Maryland," I said, but nobody paid me no nevermind.

So, they made merry plans to have city police officers dig in around Pikesville, occupy Woodlawn and, if necessary, flatten Dundalk.

"We can do it," said a guy we call Boots, slopping beer over the counter in his enthusiasm. "Why, I bet one of our boys in blue can outfight and outshoot 10 of theirs."

"The important thing," said Br'er Fox, "is that Baltimore County just elected a new county executive who hasn't had time to cement the loyalty of his troops. They'd probably turn tail and run at the first hint of battle."

I decided it was time to interject a little bit of common sense into this conversation.

"Guys, guys, guys," I said. "Don't you know this would never work? If we so much as blinked at Baltimore County the president of the United States would probably pour so many soldiers into the city it would make Operation Desert Storm look like a picnic."

"Why should he take sides?" demanded Bullwinkle.

"You forget," I said. "Baltimore County voted Republican in the last couple of presidential races. The city has always voted for the other side."

And that shut them up. I mean, that shut them up good.

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