Why do we have states? I’m not talking about states of mind (thinking, engaged, critical and autopilot) or states of matter (solid, liquid, gas and plasma). I’m not even talking about sovereign nation-states with firm borders, currency, armies and a shared cultural identity. I’m talking about the “S” in “USA” – the vestigial states that make-up this great nation. Having been United for nearly a quarter of a millennia it’s hard to think of states as little more than accidents of history and geography. Granted, when traveling to Alabama one does feel a tad foreign. Still, looking at a map, it’s hard to comprehend how Alaska, at over 550 times the size of Rhode Island, can be in the same category. Sorting by population closes the gap, but still, California has nearly 70 times as many inhabitants as Wyoming. Then there’s Puerto Rico and the other territories. They get one non-voting house representative and zero senators. Talk about taxation without representation! I think it’s time states provide us with a little more entertainment value to justify their existence. Here are a few thoughts.
- M&A. There are just too many east coast states. The following consolidation could get us from 50 to 40 (imagine all the grateful schoolchildren with 20% fewer states – and capitols —to memorize).
- The Gals (TG). Combining some states with girl’s names (Virginias, Carolinas and Maryland) would get you the fourth largest state –and fourth most populous after CA, TX, and NN. Where’s NN you ask? Nice segue!
- New-New Delaware (NN). Annex New Jersey and New York to Delaware. Why does Delaware get top billing? Good question. For the same reason Delaware (and Rhode Island for that matter) were state-worthy in the first place.
- South Maine (SM). Would be made-up of Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Connecticut. Heck, throw-in Rhode Island and you’ve got a state about the same size as Maine. I considered renaming Maine to North Maine, but, the Virginia/West Virginia historic naming precedent made the Maine/South Maine naming convention feel right.
- Rebranding. Rather than “states”, let’s have some truth in advertising and call them “provinces”, which I think is closer to reality. Granted, the United Provinces of America (UPA) doesn’t have the same ring to it. If we’re going to go to the effort and cost of changing all the signage and stationary, I say we come-up with a proper new name. Go big or go home! Here are a few ideas.
- Amerikstan. By appending the Persian suffix “istan” (meaning land) to America (the home of Disneyland), you get the best of both worlds. It has the familiar “America” with an exotic ring to it. Win-win!
- Murica. Bear with me a second. Superpowers tend to have short names ending in “A” (Think Russia, China and India). Plus, it seems some folks are already using the name (I’m looking at you Alabama!).
- Hold a naming pageant. It seems fitting that the land of reality TV, game shows and democracy should make a televised nationwide search for the perfect name. Panem et circenses!
- Cliques. If, like teenagers, states are not ready to do something useful with their existence, maybe they should start behaving as such and form cliques. Some ideas:
- Belles South of 36°30′. At 13 states from Arizona to North Carolina, there are probably going to be smaller cliques within this group. They had to let Texas in, but that doesn’t mean they have to hang out all the time. Now, if someone could tell California, Nevada and Missouri they’re not invited (even if they do technically have some territory below the line –don’t get me started on Kentucky).
- The Jocks. Big states where you wonder if anybody is home. The lights are on but nobody seems to be home. Calling all states with less than 20 people per square mile (Idaho squeaks-in as the seventh –and final—member).
- Four-letter-three-vowel club. Membership: Iowa and Ohio. I suspect the three vowel requirement was added to keep Utah out –nobody wants to hang-out with them.
Much as it irks me to admit it, I suppose in the end the best analogy for these United States might be the bones in the cranium or the sacrum. They’re fused together and don’t have the range of motion of a femur (or even a dorsal vertebra). Despite these limitations, they’re technically still considered bones. Which reminds me, the solution to this bone-chilling cold snap is, you guessed it, a nice, warm donut.