Did you ever see a sheep in a porkpie hat?rnEver seen a lemming dressed all in black?rnYou might have been there but I’ll tell you just in casernJust take a walk down St. Mark’s Place.rnRank and File were angry populists, probably harboring all sortsrnof phobias. The bumpkin bewildered by the din and pageantryrnof Gotham is a stock character in Upstate/Downstate literature.rnStanley Walker, in his jocular 1935 essay, walked a mile in ourrnshoes: “Every other citizen is either a pickpocket or a sybarite.rn. . . The City reeks with Jews, Catholics, atheists, communists,rnnudists. Republicans, Public Enemies, chow dogs, Rolls-rnRoyces, and Heywood Broun.”rnThe conceit is that airyone who bridles at Downstate imperialismrnis a rube, a racist, a redneck, an anti-Semite. What wonderfulrnweapons with which to stifle debate: Submit, Upstater, orrnface the Hate Crime tribunal!rnSo where do we turn, O Lord, where do we tiirn? To NormanrnMailer, of course, whose 1969 mayoral campaign is arnfulgent star in our pitch black night.rn”Power to the Neighborhoods!” was Mailer’s slogan. Hernwanted to abolish the present city government and permitrnblocks, tracts, sections to manage their own affairs. SoHo,rnHarlem, Bensonhurst: each neighborhood would be responsiblernfor its own welfare, trash pickup, policing, etc. He alsornwanted to cut Upstate loose, to end our “marriage of misery, incompatibility,rnand abominable old quarrels.”rnMailer averred that he was to the left of the liberals and to thernright of the conservatives: wisdom’s place! He got clobbered,rnbut not before diagnosing the modern malady: “The style ofrnNew York life has shifted since the Second World War (alongrnwith the rest of American cities) from a scene of local neighborhoodsrnand personalities to a large dull impersonal style of lifernwhich deadens us with its architecture, its highways, its abstractrnwelfare, and its bureaucratic reflex to look for government solutionsrnwhich come into the city from without (and do not work)rn. . . Our condition is spiritiess. We wait for abstract impersonalrnpowers to save us, we despise the abstractness of those powers,rnwe loathe ourselves for our own apathy.” Has any candidate inrnpostwar America been as eloquent?rnMailer’s essay, “An Instrument for the City,” reprinted in ExistentialrnErrands, is a brilliant and shamefully neglected decentralistrnmanifesto. If New Yorkers had listened to Mailer, PaulrnGoodman, and Dorothy Day instead of John Lindsay, AbernBeame, and Ed Koch, perhaps we’d be friends.rnTwo years later, Bella Abzug picked up the statehood ball.rnThe floppy-hatted harridan—who had opposed the high-testosteronernMailer candidacy—raged against Upstate “appleknockers”rnwho did not understand the historical inevitability of a centralizedrnwelfare state run by Manhattan social workers. Abzug’srnplan was poorly designed: She wanted an urban state, withoutrnthe buffers of Long Island and Westchester. (We don’t wantrn’em either!)rnYet Abzug struck a nerve. Ambitious pols who thought theyrnwere too urban, too Jewish, too black to win statewide electionsrnhopped on the statehood train. Brooklyn borough president SebastianrnLeone took Bella one step further and called for an independentrnBrooklyn, asserting, “We’ve lived too long in thernshadow of Manhattan.” The Buffalo City Council passed arn”good riddance” resolution. Petitions were circulated to force arncitywide referendum to authorize the drafting of a new constitution,rnthe first step toward statehood. Liberal activists werernreinvigorating the torpid American ideal of self-rule, and theyrnwere, justly, proud of themselves.rnThey were also naive. The hack city clerk rejected 20,000 ofrnthe 55,398 signatures they had collected. There would be nornreferendum. Governor Rockefeller and the New York Timesrnproclaimed it a great triumph for unity, and secession died arnprompt death.rn(A similar fate will likely befall the separatist movement of>-rnerating today on Staten Island. By far the smallest of New York’srnfive boroughs, Staten Island gets stuck with 80 percent of therncity’s rubbish. “One man-one vote” rulings have nullified thernborough’s influence in city affairs, so fed-up islanders are craftingrna charter for an independent City of Staten Island. Thernstate legislature, dominated by antisecession slickers—why liberaternyour best garbage can?—will have the final say. Thosernwho have ever depended on the kindness of politicians can predictrnthe outcome.)rnI suppose there is no reason for anyone outside of New Yorkrnto care about our plight, but I’ll take a stab at manufacturingrn”relevance.” Division of New York is in the national interest becausernit would permit a new generation of Upstatesmen to takernthe stage. We did, after all, give America Martin Van Burenrnand Grover Cleveland. (With Millard Fillmore we’ll take ourrnmulligan.) Barber Conable, my congressman for many years, arnman of republican virtue and rectihide, would have made a finernpresident. Democrats from Rochester and Syracuse are colorless,rnbut the rural Democracy is populist, anti-bureaucracy, andrnGreen. (In many cow counties, the Democrats are the anti-tax,rnanti-spending party.) Give us our own state and we just mightrngive America another Bob Taft or William Jennings Bryan.rnIn mid-September, Batavians honored Major Philemon Tracyrnof the Sixth Georgia Infantry, the only Confederate officerrnburied in Northern soil during the War.rnTracy was a Macon, Georgia, boy who spent his summers inrnBatavia with his uncle. Judge Phineas Tracy. When Major Tracyrnwas felled at Antietam, his uncle had the body smuggledrnnorth and interred without fanfare in our founders’ cemetery. Arncentury and a quarter later, local Civil War buffs, led by DonrnBurkel—whose printed cards describe his occupation as “ControversialrnPerson” —decided to give Major Tracy a properrnmemorial.rnFifty or so Batavians paid their respects on a brisk Sundayrnmorning. Reenactment soldiers, blue and gray, planted thernstars and bars and stars and stripes in Tracy’s dirt. JeffersonrnDavis made a brief speech. An adorable elementary schoolgirlrnread Mary Ashley Townsend’s poem, “A Georgia Volunteer.”rnThe soldiers fired a volley. A bugler played “Taps.”rnAs we left the cemetery, my dad and I talked about the Kauffmansrnin the Union army, privates all, farmkids who marched offrnto war. I felt proud of them even as I doubted the justness ofrnsuppressing the South. When I got home I performed an etiolatedrnact of localism worthy of the 90’s: I opened a beer, floppedrnon the couch, and watched the Buffalo Bills game on television.rnThe Bills are a respected team, finally, and Western NewrnYorkers are inspirited in the days following a big win. Maybe, inrnsome small way, these muscle-bound mercenaries are contributingrnto a revived regional patriotism. But Philemon Tracy’srngrave, its Confederate flag rippling in the September breeze,rnsent a loud and sure admonition to any romantic fools whornmight still entertain secessionist dreams: Don’f! crn22/CHRONICLESrnrnrn