I don’t know about you, but I’ve become far too apathetic with the State of this Union. Especially with certain persons in the highest offices in the land. Protesting and petitioning, while an invaluable element of a democracy, seems to fall on deaf ears. And I’m far too much of a lady to become an anarchist. Instead, I’m going to start my own country.
My quest began one Friday night. Tired of going out and spending someone else's money, I decided to stay in and play video games. This one allows the player to rule over a fictional Caribbean nation from the Colonial era all the way to the modern times. You build houses for your citizens, provide them with jobs and, through their hard labor, earn revenue for your country. You can also siphon off some of the nation’s funds into a Swiss account, in case things go a little sour. The result? I was able to maintain my position as La Presidenta over the course of the game! (Though the 1920s and ‘30s were a bit of a mess. Good thing the military remained on my side!) My citizens loved me! I had the television on to BBC World News. It was on the hour when they began with yet another event in the world of American politics. El Presidente of the United States had once again done something outrageous. I rolled my eyes. Really. Fucking. Hard. What an ass, I thought.
After pouring another glass, I flipped through the channels. Settling on HBO’s Vice News Tonight, their last segment was a bit interesting. An international conference in Georgia concluded earlier in the week. Men and women of various shapes and sizes, some bedecked with glittering tiaras, others with medals and sashes. No, Queen Elizabeth did not travel to the South. It was a conference of micronationalists. Presidents, Grand Dukes, Queens and Emperors of self-created countries. Some claiming territories on Earth, others in the Universe. One had land that could fit in the palm of your hand! Could I do the same?
The following day I gave up on brunch and began researching the subject. I found out the micro world of micronations was bigger than I imagined. Over the course of two centuries (if not longer), micronations have risen and fallen. Some are formed simply as a political demonstration, others exploiting international treaties and agreements. The Principality of Sealand was founded when a soldier-turned-sovereign prince claimed an abandoned offshore platform off the British coast. Others are investing in land development. But could the cash-strapped Kingdom of Ortensia do the same?
With finances drastically short, the search for unclaimed land was mute. However, I was to take the example of so many micronations and simply lay claim to some land. The grand duchies of Flandresis and Westartica have claims to territories in Antarctica. The Kingdom of Ruritania, meanwhile, claims a residential property in Georgia (its queen regnant, Anastasia, was hostess for the international conference of micronationalists.) But I had a rented apartment in the United States. I knew that wasn’t going to bode well – President Trump would order an invasion in minutes! But that gave me an idea. Throughout history, dominant powers like England and Spain invaded territories already inhabited by populations. Could the Kingdom of Ortensia do the same?
I looked to the Caribbean for my new kingdom. Despite its unusually strong hurricane seasons, the region is otherwise quite enjoyable. I spent days looking for potential land to claim as my own. Sadly, many of them were either well-guarded or were allied to Great Powers. Then I looked at Haiti. It was relatively defenseless, and its former ally in the United States has soured since Trump’s inauguration. It was perfect was a perfect opportunity. I found an uninhabited island situated between Haiti and Jamaica. Discovered by Colombus in the late-1400s, Navassa Island has since been claimed by both Haiti and the United States. I laid claim to the guano-infested island and renamed it St. Elisabeth's Island. The Kingdom of Ortensia was born!
Though I loved my infant country, naming her after me just seemed a bit much. And the Kingdom of Ortensia lacked a certain…je ne sais quoi. The time had come to find a proper name for my country. Researching and spending hours online, I decided to take the easy route and used a country name generator. After five random attempts, I settled on one: Legialle. It was different. It sounded a bit chic. And it definitely sounded French. #sold. I began writing and thinking how my idealized nation would function.
It was during this process I realized an important element of nation-building. Nationhood isn’t defined by the dirt underneath them, though it certainly adds flavor to the mix. Nations are formed out of a desire to be free from oppression. They are born out of a determination to see a group thrive and flourish. Nations are formed out of ideals and thoughts. Nationhood is all about identity, and how we see ourselves in the world. It is why Mexicans, Haitians, Americans, and Catalonians fought (and fight) for independence – because they see no space for them in the greater polity.
Perhaps that is the reason micronations are formed. Not out of self-glorification (though some may exist), but because their leaders cannot see themselves in the society of their mother country. One can see why the Gay and Lesbian Kingdom of the Coral Sea Islands has maintained a ‘war’ with Australia due to their lack of equal rights for the LGBTQ community. As a black, first-generation Trans-American, I cannot always identify with current American culture. And I am not ignorant of the increasing efforts by American leadership to limit the rights of people like me. Why not create a country where I can be treated fairly and justly?
Not to say I am abandoning the country I grew up in. For better or worse, this is my country. I may not always agree with its leaders, but I believe in its ability to change lives. It has inspired generations of peoples from all over the world to seek a better life and opportunity. It has inspired people to pursue democratic, rather than authoritarian, regimes. Presidents come and go, but the notion of America as the bastion of democracy will always - hopefully - prevail.
As I embark on my nation-building, please feel free to see what’s going on via the country’s website at www.royaumelegialle.com. I'm interested to see how far I will go. After all, it's not like I have nothing else to do!
(But seriously, there's a lot of things going on in my personal and professional life. Save that for the next blog!)
Ortensia the First