The States of Red and Blue: United by Division

Dialogue containing the two words, “Red State” has reached reckless abundance in the past year. I might argue that “Red State” has become as notoriously commonplace an American geographical grouping as “Bible Belt,” “New England” and “Mormon Country.” I had all but embraced it as part of my natural speech pattern, condemning every state in the South to Redneck Christian fundamentalist-initiating faith bases, but today something in me jolted in protest. Blame it on a mind bullet if you will, but the casual toss of “Red State” into the small talk bothered me so much I was thrown back to 1865.

Before I tell you all about my savvy new time machine, first let me digress closer in recent history to the last time I was troubled by the “Red State” label. Like many defeated liberals, I remember bitterly cringing as “Red State” followed “Blue State” into the realm of ugly, fake-olive-branch purple as the newly re-elected President Bush delivered his victory speech on November 3, 2004 after receiving the conceding call from John Kerry.

After taking a break from gushing on and on about his mandate, Bush a laid a sturdy foundation of inspiring right-left, Red-Blue let’s-get-along floor plans, even though we all knew he wasn’t planning on building a house. At the time, I wanted to destroy the colors Red and Blue, or at least banish them to the French flag, preventing their assimilation into the American social fabric as the most accepted way to explain the outcome of the election. I let my country down by failing to do so.

Even in simpleton Bush-speak, the Great Big Left-Right Blue-Red Reconciliation is too easy of a case to make. Like jell-o, it’s tasty and easy to sell, conveniently divided by bold color, but it’s also deceptive and transparent. Then there’s the oft-ignored question of origin. What mechanisms are responsible for mixing this user-friendly palette on the American map in the first place? Whether you blame the media, the conservative mafia, Monica Lewinsky, or the residual effects of the blatantly divided outcome of the 2000 Bush-Gore controversy, it’s a kindergarten-style Getting to Know Your Colors treatment on state-by-state political classification.

But it’s starting to feel frightening normal, dumbed down to the lowest two denominators, pitted irreconcilably against one another, stopping political progress dead in its tracks because our democracy is bogged down by this fabricated conflict which has been shoved down the throats of every American educated enough to tell the difference between the two colors.

And we buy it, unassuming and free of skepticism because deep down, ever since Bush and Gore split us down the midsection, I think we want to be divided. Liberals passionately yank conservative chains, condescendingly critiquing from the high horse of academia, using too many words and arguments the majority of us can’t access. Conservatives revel in vilifying the liberal stranglehold on such public forms of expression as the media and the entertainment industry, holding target practice on morality-based issues. Everyone in between is contemplating the extremities of of this teeter totter, unsure of where to sit. Instead of stopping to wonder how we got to be so different in the public eye, the Blue and Red States willingly accept their labels along with the status quo.

This fate is easy to accept, but I say it’s much more complex than that, so complex it’s alarming that we’ve been painted into two colors. Like racial conflict, Blue-Red divisions are rooted in political identity subversion, formed by the acceptance of ideas perpetuated by our power structures. This brand of blind faith, the easiest means to political identity subversion, is often the most detrimental to national identity.

That the United States of America should consist of the Red and Blue States getting along like an older brother and a little sister is not only unrealistic, it’s also impossible, given our inherent diversity. Now that the damage has been done, not even Barack Obama and his empty, self-serving, “I’ve got gay friends in the Red States and country bumpkin friends in the Blue States” rhetoric cannot undo it, though I’ve got to hand it to him for trying.

The last time the United States was so fiercely divided along state lines was the Civil War. Next to this behemoth, the Red-Blue state affair is just a bothersome squabble. You want conflict? Forget the “What to do? Social Security 2050” debate. Forget “Roe versus Wade: To Uphold or Prepare for Population Explosion/Teenage Mother Boom” debate. Try Gettysburg and Antietam. Try playing poker with your enemy in the forest one night and bombing the living shit out of his bunker the next. Thanks, but no thanks. I think I’ll stay right here, safely complaining about 2005.

If anything, my spotty Civil War education taught me about national identity, and how, after enduring such a long war with bloody battles and hundreds and thousands of casualties, it is crucial for a nation to address collective objectives shared by all of its citizens, rather than dividing them along ideological, political, and social lines. Even in an increasingly more ethnically assorted country such as America, we all share common denominators like free speech and the right to vote for a representative government.

It doesn’t take a mind bullet to see that the state color separation is successfully dividing us, and whoever is dividing us could potentially conquer if we fail to see this division as what is truly is—a diversion from America’s real sickness. If you don’t know what ails this great and powerful country of ours, perhaps you should take some time and responsibility to look past the Red and Blue because the symptoms have spread to all the states, and they're out of control.


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