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While I was galavanting about on ‘The Continent’ last fall, the secession of Cascadia drew just a few micrometers closer to realization, with the nearly-official renaming of Puget Sound. Puget Sound is now the Salish Sea.

Did you know about this?? Then why didn’t you tell me? Shocking. But that’s how fundamental change occurs: Tectonically. Nearly imperceptibly, the ground shifts beneath our feet. I was born on the shores of Puget Sound, but now my homeland abuts a different body of water: The SALISH SEA. This sort of migration – finding that, without having moved, you’re in a different city or country because the border has crossed you, is not unfamiliar to residents of, say, the Balkans – I have a friend whose mother has been issued 3 different passports by 3 different countries, without ever leaving the village house where she was born. These geographical re-nominations are significant, and should be read very carefully.

This new name is meant to acknowledge the ecological commonalities of a previously-divided area. The Salish Sea comprises the bodies known as Puget Sound, the Strait of Georgia, the Strait of Juan de Fuca, and a bit of Desolation Sound. None of these names have been officially discarded; they’re just encompassed by a bigger entity now, and will presumably be phased out of textbooks and maps as the Cascadian revolution progresses. We’re already referred to as the “over 7 million people” who “live within the immediate watershed of the Salish Sea,” rather than as seperate American and Canadian populations. According to Knute Berger, “The Salish Sea helps promote “trans-boundary” awareness between the U.S. and Canada.” Well, yes….perhaps. Or, it helps promote intra-Cascadian national pride AMONG those Cascadian citizens who are currently artificially divided by false borders.

Since I was a wee lass, I’ve heard secessionist rumblings in my homeland. We’ve often felt remote from the maneuverings of the East Coast aristocracy, underrepresented by the “two” party system, and culturally distinct from our neighbor-states. And, of course, characterologically superior to the fabled Average American, with our self-sufficient craftiness, our alchemical union of bookish erudition and rough lumberjack strength, our innovation and openmindedness and, well, generally unique-as-a-really-unique-snowflake Northwest spirit. (Here’s a little piece in Sightline about the ‘Northwest personality,’ and this is a pdf of some research that measured personality traits and ranked their prevalence state by state.) We’ve long suspected that we are a breed apart. We Western Washingtonians often feel that we are even distinct from our own Eastern Washingtonian population – west of the Cascades, Washington is green, moist, and socialist; east of the Cascades is brown, dry, and right-wingy. We have more in common with our brethren in British Columbia, Oregon, and maybe Northern California. This coastal strip is affectionately known as Cascadia. And we have the nagging feeling that we might just be better off Doing It Ourselves.

Cascadia has a long and storied history of utopian movements. General strikes, communal religions, radical unions, and all manner of civil disobedience are our proud heritage. As early as 1803, Jefferson himself envisioned a sovereign “Republic of the Pacific” in our portion of the continent. Since then, multiple fictional and aspirational accounts of a Cascadian nation have simmered on the back burner of our collective consciousness.

Lately, our secessionist dreams have gotten a bit steamier. From the Snohomish Freedom County activists to the proponents of bioregion affiliation, momentum is building. Recently, 25 Washington State legislators supported an act that would declare the sovereignty of Washington State and divert all Washingtonians’ federal tax payments into a state-held escrow account – they were supported and inspired by 10th Amendment federalists, who have been increasingly active in many states.

There’s a divide, already, between clashing versions of the new nationalism: West Cascadians tend to fantasize about a sort of environmentalist socialism, while East Cascadians are more of the tax-revolt right-libertarian stripe. My personal intuition is that we’ll need both organic gardeners and well-armed 2nd Amendment paramilitaries to make this thing work, so let’s not preemptively slice ourselves into politically homogeneous sub-states. Once we’re formally independent, we’ll need all the internal cross-pollination we can get, as we’ll probably suffer trade and travel restrictions from the hostile and shrunken American States during the initial nation-building years.

Yes, there will be sacrifices ahead, my compatriots. But recall that the beloved Cascadian flag includes a field of red, symbolizing the “volcanic forces” that burn within us – ALL of us. As we’ve long assured the world, when Rainier goes, it’ll be BIG. Our volcanic forces are mobilizing. We don’t know precisely when the eruption will happen, but it WILL…it’s inevitable. A tectonic shift. If you will.

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Here’s a handy guide for those ambitious neo-pharmacists ready to get busy-beavering away on placebo production for the brave new world. This piece in Wired has a full-color diagram showing what colors your pills should be for maximum efficacy: happy pills should be yellow, calming pills should be green. Oh, and more expensive pills work better – so don’t let any ethical qualms interfere with your profit margin. Set those street prices high!  And a truly enterprising soul could dig up the list of 679 physicians polled in a recent study – half of them admitted to regularly giving patients fake pills. Voila! Ready-made marketing email list!

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I’ve heard a lot of water-cooler chat about the accumulating indications that antidepressant medications are no more effective than placebos. And it’s not just antidepressants that fail to outperform sugar pills: a diverse collection of illnesses, from psoriasis to “orange-sized tumors,” apparently respond as well to fake medicine as they do to the ‘real’ stuff.

And we’ve been all flustered about this affordable healthcare kerfluffle! Clearly, we can address exorbitant drug costs, public health, and unemployment in one fell swoop. After a brief examination by a traditionally educated allopathic physician (you know, one of the poor saps who spent decades in pursuit of training and degrees and board certifications and whatnot) most patients could be referred to ‘specialists’ in their placebo-responsive conditions. The new specialists would be responsible for administering courses of well-chosen placebos. They wouldn’t need a lot of fancy education, just an easy-to-read chart with the various colors and shapes of pills and their effects – and, of course, a convincing bedside manner. You could take an unemployed worker straight off the welfare rolls after a six-week acting class, give him a white coat and a stethoscope, and let the perceived authority of the medical profession work its magic on the health problems of our society!

And for those of you concerned about the welfare of Big Pharma, and whether their vital research budgets would be undermined by all this open-access placebo distribution, fear not. Big Pharma is a vital component of the new system. Merck and Eli Lilly and all our other beloved corps can keep on doing what they do best – ubiquitous, expensive campaigns of deceptive direct marketing to consumers. We’ll need them to keep churning out television ads with carefree folks frollicking in sundappled fields, urging us to ask our doctors about Perfecterol and Idealexa. After all, the placebo effect is only as durable as our collective faith in the ineffable power of Pill. And if Big Pharma is good at manufacturing anything, it’s faith!

(Here’s a link to the full text of the Scientific American article linked above – the one with the citrus-sized weeping tumors – in case you don’t have a subscription.)

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