Location: Halstead, Kansas, United States

This is my seventh year at Halstead which is also where I live with my wife and my soon to be two year old daughter.

Sunday, November 07, 2004

The Great Divide

The election is now part of history and George Bush will serve a second term. I think a lot of people were surprised by the turn out and as I read more news reports a lot of people are very upset by the news. Let me give you a sample:

NEW YORK - A 25-year-old man from Georgia who was apparently distraught over President Bush's re-election shot and killed himself at ground zero.

OTTAWA (Reuters) - The number of U.S. citizens visiting Canada's main immigration Web site has shot up six-fold as Americans flirt with the idea of abandoning their homeland after President Bush's election win this week.

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters) - The summer of love has given way to the autumn of fear in San Francisco, a liberal stronghold where residents bitterly disappointed by the Bush victory are in no mood to reach out and mend divisions. Rather, they are waving "United States of Canada" maps, redrawn to show Canada extending down to include California, New England and the other so-called "blue states" that voted decisively for Massachusetts Democratic Sen. John Kerry in the U.S. presidential race.

"I have family in Idaho, but I told my wife we're not going to visit them now. It's all Republicans there," said Ron Schmidt, a public relations executive. "We have family in Indiana and I don't want to go there either."

I supported President Bush in the election and I was glad he won. However, had he lost I had no plan for the extreme measures I read above. The anger over a fair election which saw huge voter turnout really surprises me. Isn’t this the way our government is supposed to work? The division between some people in our nation is a bit disconcerting.
The split reminds of one of the best articles I have ever read, One Nation, Slightly Divided from the Atlantic Monthly (A very blue magazine). It details some of the differences between “Red America” and “Blue America”. Here is a sample:

The place I'm talking about goes by different names. Some call it America. Others call it Middle America. It has also come to be known as Red America, in reference to the maps that were produced on the night of the 2000 presidential election. People in Blue America, which is my part of America, tend to live around big cities on the coasts. People in Red America tend to live on farms or in small towns or small cities far away from the coasts. Things are different there.

Everything that people in my neighborhood do without motors, the people in Red America do with motors. We sail; they powerboat. We cross-country ski; they snowmobile. We hike; they drive ATVs. We have vineyard tours; they have tractor pulls. When it comes to yard work, they have rider mowers; we have illegal aliens.

Different sorts of institutions dominate life in these two places. In Red America churches are everywhere. In Blue America Thai restaurants are everywhere. In Red America they have QVC, the Pro Bowlers Tour, and hunting. In Blue America we have NPR, Doris Kearns Goodwin, and socially conscious investing. In Red America the Wal-Marts are massive, with parking lots the size of state parks. In Blue America the stores are small but the markups are big. You'll rarely see a Christmas store in Blue America, but in Red America, even in July, you'll come upon stores selling fake Christmas trees, wreath-decorated napkins, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer collectible thimbles and spoons, and little snow-covered villages.
We in the coastal metro Blue areas read more books and attend more plays than the people in the Red heartland. We're more sophisticated and cosmopolitan—just ask us about our alumni trips to China or Provence, or our interest in Buddhism. But don't ask us, please, what life in Red America is like. We don't know. We don't know who Tim LaHaye and Jerry B. Jenkins are, even though the
novels they have co-written have sold about 40 million copies over the past few years. We don't know what James Dobson says on his radio program, which is listened to by millions. We don't know about Reba or Travis. We don't know what happens in mega-churches on Wednesday evenings, and some of us couldn't tell you the difference between a fundamentalist and an evangelical, let alone describe what it means to be a Pentecostal. Very few of us know what goes on in Branson, Missouri, even though it has seven million visitors a year, or could name even five NASCAR drivers, although stock-car races are the best-attended sporting events in the country. We don't know how to shoot or clean a rifle. We can't tell a military officer's rank by looking at his insignia. We don't know what soy beans look like when they're growing in a field.

FOR DISCUSSION: What do you believe is the biggest difference between Red America and Blue America today?


Blogger Doc said...

people like that make me sick to my stomach and it makes me want to throw up that people are so *grabs head and explodes*

8:59 PM  
Blogger Casey Jack said...

Heh - a very blue magazine indeed.

It reminds me of something that happened down in Mexico this summer. We were on a mission trip, and there were other youth groups working there as well. This one fellow from North Carolina (I think) was simply dead set on thinking that Red America was completely unimportant. He, like this journalist, thought that people from Blue America were better educated, more cosmopolitan, more sophisticated than the Red Americans. "Blue America has bigger cities, more money, better colleges, and more culture than Red America," he would say - almost implying that Red Americans were a bunch of dolts. Never mind the fact that without the agriculture of Red America, Blue Americans would be floundering in starvation, and our country would have to get nearly all of its food from somewhere else. Who cares about going hungry? So what if more Red Americans go to worship more often than most Blue Americans? So what if Red Americans like different music than Blue Americans?

Ignorance gushes from the mouths of people like this. I've experienced it many times. I have talked to some people on the internet, and I told them that I was from Kansas. Quite often, there replies were:

"Where is that?"

or, my favorite...

"Oh. That sucks."

Wow. Is that how separated we really are? Are Red Americans seen as nothing more than hillbillies with four-wheelers? Some people don't even think that anything exists around here. Many people have been surprised to hear that there isn't a Wal-Mart located in our town, even though one lies only 10 minutes away. Some people gasp when I tell them that Halstead is a town of about 1700. Some people are surprised that we know about things like "telephones" and "the internets." I bet those Blue Americans don't know about that 5th Internet.

I can't even think of anything else to say, that article was so unnerving. Umm... my final nonsensical words are these:

There are blue sprinkles on the red cake, you know.

12:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Red (white) and Blue
Hi, this is Clemens
Well, I am neither red, nor blue, nor am I American...
But, I have experienced both Americans, the red, like it is said in the text, as I have just spent a year there, and the blue, as I have also been there a few times, and I know many people from the blue part, too.
From my European point of view, I did not see any huge differences between blue and Europe, but huge differences between Red and Europe. When I first got to know that I would "end up in famous Halstead, Kansas" I was honestly not too pleased. I associated Kansas with farms, sunflowers, wheat fields, but not more; especially when I heard that Halstead has like 2000 inhabitants and the next bigger city Wichita is a couple of miles away.
There are a lot of prejudices about the US, but they mainly refer to the red part. The text mentioned some of them, like the following: “We don't know how to shoot or clean a rifle. We can't tell a military officer's rank by looking at his insignia. We don't know what soy beans look like when they're growing in a field.”
People seem to complain about Bush’s re-election. There are probably things that could be better, maybe John Kerry could have done better, but I honestly doubt that there would be a big difference between Bush’s or Kerry’s domestic policies. Especially with a Republican majority in both houses. The only thing Bush cannot get around in my opinion is to rise the taxes again he lowered in his first term, because of the huge budget deficit he has caused. This time he seems to be an elected president by the people, not appointed from the Supreme Court, what puts him into a better position, I think…
The biggest difference between Red and Blue though is in my opinion the differences between the people in general. Maybe I am wrong, but I would say that the people in Red-America are more the working-class, and middle-class people, whereas the Blue tends more to middle and corporate class. I have gotten the feeling that people in the red also feel more patriotic than the people in the blue. There is a stronger affiliation with the Army than in Blue, and red is the heart of America, although the US are often seen from the outside to be like what one sees in movies – inner city life, or a scenery for war, or other action that takes place. However everything around those sceneries is from minor significance. Everybody will find LA, Chicago and NY on a map, but people(many Europeans) would also say that Kansas City is not only the Capital of Kansas, but also the biggest city, too, because they have heard the name, but have never heard about Topeka or Wichita, as all these towns don’t have any significance for Europe.
Another difference between red and blue is the appreciation for Bush, and the support for the war on terror on the one hand, and on the other hand a dislike for Bush, and a critical view on his policies.
I think that a president should not be a reason for a “divided” country. However, there is not a right or wrong in political opinions, but there are two opinions that drift the country apart, from my point of view.

2:30 PM  

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