When, in October of last year, the United States of America fell to an unthinkable 2-1 defeat away to modest footballing islanders Trinidad and Tobago, stalling fatally in their final 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier, the hopes, dreams and aspirations of an expectant nation were torn to shreds and tossed impertinently to the warm West Indian winds.
Resigned to the reality of a World Cup tournament passing them by without so much as registering their absence, and left without an outlet for their jingoistic fervour for the first time since Mexico 86, soccer-adoring Americans feared the prospect of a long hard summer without a single local cause to champion.
Thankfully, at this summer’s CONIFA World Football Cup in London, Cascadia awaits, with arms flung wide open, ready and willing to tap into the support of their compatriots and utilise their place at the landmark tournament to fly the flag for America; albeit one that foregoes the star-spangled banner in favour of a horizontal set of blue, white and green stripes adorned with a towering Douglas Fir tree stood proudly at its centre.
Designed by Alexander Baretich in the mid-1990s, the flag was originally conceived in order to convey “something far more tangible than an abstract concept of demarcation of space” and was forged in the hopes of “capturing the love of living communities in our bioregion; not blood, nor the glory of a nation, but a love of the bioregion; our ecological family and its natural boundaries; the place in which we live and love.” The key word used by Baretich, in the opinions of his fellow Cascadians, is ‘place’.
Like many of the stateless nations, unrecognised countries, self-declared republics, de facto regions, ethnic groups and indigenous communities who welcome CONIFA’s unique platform as an opportunity to shine a light on the ambitions and struggles of their minnow nations, Cascadia too have their own cause and the word ‘place’ underpins it all.
Cascadia – by definition the bioregion that incorporates the Pacific Northwest of the United States and Canada – is “rooted in the idea that culture stems from place and that by sharing place, we will have common concerns and values,” so outlines the movement’s ethos found on their website. “Many of the current borders in the United States and Canada are arbitrary lines on maps and do not represent the geographic, cultural, or economic realities of those living there.”
Uncommon among folk of any creed or culture, the people of Cascadia remain divided in their support of the intention to split from the United States. As summarised by Seattle-based writer Kelton Sears, for Vice in 2014, “For some, [the Cascadian movement] is chiefly an environmental cause. For others, it’s a chance to decolonialise a region of the US whose culture is already distinctly un-American. For a few, it’s a shot at Ecotopia-style secession. What it really boils down to is a new identity, one that is uniquely Pacific Northwestern.”
Regardless of where they stand on their views of succession, however, Cascadians find near unanimous agreement when it comes to their intentions at ground level where they seek to “help further local autonomy, empower individuals and communities to better represent their own needs, as well as push or environmental and economic responsibility, and increased dynamic, transparent and open governance.”
Naturally, the region’s modus vivendi extends to their football team. With an estimated 16 million people living in Cascadia territory, of whom an impressive proportion share their support between MLS teams Vancouver Whitecaps, Seattle Sounders and Portland Timbers, expectations for Cascadia in London are high and it is with immense pride the Cascadia Association Football Federation will travel to the English capital this summer hoping not only to spread the word of their beloved lands but to bring back to them the CONIFA World Football Cup title too.
By Will Sharp @shillwarp