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Our National Divorce May Already Be Quietly Happening

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The concept of a “national divorce” has been bandied about more often over the past decade. Many Americans, concerned about the nation’s political and cultural climate, have at least considered the possibility that the country might have become divided to the point that some type of separation is inevitable.

There have been numerous reports in recent years of people moving from blue states to red states due to the politics and policies of the governments they seek to escape. To a lesser degree, left-leaning Americans have also been packing up and moving to blue bastions.

Some, however, are saying “a plague on both your houses” and going off the grid, according to a new Deseret News report. The article details the journey of Philip Gleason, a 74-year-old former general contractor who founded Riverbed Ranch, a community out in the boonies of Utah. The community, founded in 2019, is a self-sufficient settlement in which residents can live off the grid.

The former contractor purchased over 1,000 acres of land with a mission to cultivate a community based on self-reliance and cooperative living. “We’re not preppers or doomsayers,” he told the news outlet. Instead, he and his cohorts seek an ideological escape from the cultural changes in American society.

In 2021, Gleason became the first resident. He and his wife drove out a camper from their home in Orem and took up residence. By the second summer, five other families had bought parcels and moved out; by the next, 35 had. Now, over 130 of the ranch’s two-acre plots are sold, about half of them occupied full-time.

The vision is as ideological as it is practical. Prospective shareholders purchase a plot and commit to live a self-sufficient lifestyle — growing your own crops, pumping your own water, building your own house. Each resident has his own reason for joining. Some, Gleason says, are drawn for health reasons — they want to grow their own clean food. Others seek safety, “away from the craziness.” Gleason reasons that most people are drawn by some combination of the two. “They just want a safe place to raise family and food,” he said.

The “craziness,” Gleason admits, was a major factor for his own move. “We seem to be undergoing a cultural revolution in the U.S.,” he said. “When we first came out here, we thought it might be too far away.” He shifted his truck into park, turning his face to meet my eyes. “Now, with everything that’s happening, we wonder if it’s far enough.”

Gleason and his community have lost faith in America’s institutions, and they are far from alone. Gallup has chronicled a sharp decline in trust for institutions – especially the government.

Last year, Gallup recorded significant declines in public confidence in 11 of the 16 institutions it tracks annually, with the presidency and Supreme Court suffering the most. The share of Americans expressing a great deal or fair amount of confidence in these fell 15 and 11 percentage points, respectively.

Folks like Gleason might still be considered to be on the fringe end of society in 2024. However, Riverbed Ranch is not the only off-the-grid community. Indeed, there are several others across the country.

This trend is a more radical version of what could already be happening in the nation today, and it could be how the national divorce concept manifests in the real world. Such an outcome would not likely involve states seceding from the union but more migration to rural and other remote areas. Some folks, even in red states, could decide they are done with their state and local governments and figure it would be better to move out to places where they are most likely to be left alone.

This is not simply a theory. The numbers show that more people are migrating to rural areas of the country – especially after the COVID-19 pandemic. This is not only being driven by political concerns, but potentially worries about the possibility of political violence. In these turbulent times, it is not unreasonable to think that America’s political environment could devolve into something uglier than what we are seeing now.

In fact, these two reasons, among several others, drove me to move to rural Louisiana in April.

In essence, the national divorce could already be happening, and it has nothing to do with secession. Instead, people are simply going to areas where their privacy and rights will be less infringed upon. Moreover, there are plenty of bastions separate from the impact of the culture war that is growing ever more prevalent. The question is: What will America look like ten years from now?

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