If America doesn't add a new star before I die, I'll be the first Barnett - in a long line of Barnetts - to be born and die under the same flag. That just ain't right.
Travel back with me and track the growth of these United States across seven generations of my family:
- Joseph Barnett (born 1754) saw 13 colonies form a new nation and then grow to 26 states total before he died in 1838.
- His son Andrew (born 1797) witnessed 18 states join the Union, only to see it rip apart just as he passed in 1862.
- Then came Jared (1831-1911), who, across his tumultuous eight decades, watched nine new states join, 11 of them leave in a huff (only to be forcibly reintegrated) and then another 13 added!
- Jared's boy Harry (1864-1948) had his national flag go from 35 stars to 48.
- My grandfather, J.E. (1896-1983), got five new stars.
- And his only son, my dad, John (1922-2004), was reduced to just two (Alaska and Hawaii).
And what about me (1962 and counting)? I'm looking at nada with all this anti-immigrant populism, even as China adds lost colonies and the European Union keeps expanding!
So why isn't America open for mergers and acquisitions?
Americans forget that these United States (the only country in the world whose official name is a complete abstraction) constitute the planet's oldest and most successful multinational political and economic union.
Nobody's ever consistently added stars over its lifetime like the U.S., so why did we stop growing?
Blame it on our Cold-War containment strategy, which turned us into such status-quo ninnies - a betrayal of our historical roots.
Where do we go from here?
First off, as we proved with Alaska and Hawaii, being noncontiguous to the Lower Forty-eight is no show-stopper.
So don't assume our only options are Mexico (which provided us with eight states in the past) and Canada (although, if Quebec really makes a break for it, I say invite Alberta down for some beers - eh?).
Second, much like the free-slave-state matching scheme during the run-up to the Civil War, we'd have to add states in red-blue pairs just to keep Newt Gingrich and Hillary Clinton and the rest of those boomer politicos from going to the mattresses.
Third, our rising Hispanic quotient hangs over America's future like a huge, upside-down question mark. At the beginning of World War II, America was almost 90 percent white and less than 2 percent Hispanic.
Now we're roughly 70-15. By 2050, at least one out of every four American voters will share a Hispanic heritage. In electoral-powerhouse states like Texas and Florida, the ratio will reach far higher. By 2040, for example, Hispanics will constitute an absolute majority in California!
Historically, the U.S. added states by flooding the territory in question with its nationals and then having them petition back for statehood. But, with the rising Hispanicization of America, we're looking at the opposite dynamic: Hispanic Americans agitating for inclusion of their familial homelands in the United States.
Based on recent events, you know where I'm going next with this.
Cuba represents the first best scenario, and here's how it will happen:
- Once Fidel Castro finally croaks and brother Raul gets to run things for a bit on his own, watch the practical brother experiment with markets while allowing some serious infusions of cash from "trusted" sources like China.
- Fast-forward a year or two, and tired Raul is replaced by some national unity committee that reflects the growing splits within the next generation of leaders over how far market reforms should proceed.
- Meanwhile, the money seeping in from Miami's Cubans grows to a flood as travel restrictions are radically reduced in response to popular demand.
- Within five years, Cuba holds its first roughly free presidential election, and one or more candidates, with pockets bulging with greenbacks, stump openly for American statehood.
- Once that match gets lit, watch Florida hold every subsequent American presidential candidate hostage to the Cuba-statehood plank.
Once we move into that political territory, the pairing most likely to unfold is Blue State D.C. joining the Union alongside Red State Cuba, and I've got my first two new stars on the flag.
I can't wait!