Thursday, March 24, 2011

Half Beck and Half Maddow

Interesting article in the Economist here.Reading it gave me an uncomfortable twinge.

Because I'm one of those insular people he describes.

The last real prolonged contact I had with real red-meat conservatives was when I was in the service. And I should note that there I generally tended to keep my mouth shut unless something really unpassable came up.

The last really conservative friend I had was an engineer I worked with, and he and I haven't spoken since he took me out for a drink with his two fellow Red State pals and we spent most of the night arguing politics.

I know I've often observed about what I consider the dysfunction of my country in this place. And reading the article, I find the author's observations uncomfortably similar to those I've made and noting that his conclusion - that the "big sort" is making the United States ungovernable - is exactly what I've been fearing. But, also, realizing that his main thesis, that "...America is splitting into “balkanised communities whose inhabitants find other Americans to be culturally incomprehensible.” indicts me along with the rest of the country.

Portland is often protrayed as a blue city in a relatively blue state. But we're not, really. We're a VERY blue city, those of us clustered around the confluence of the Columbia and the Willamette. You get out to places like Oregon City and Scappoose, though, and you're in magenta country; mostly red with a tiny hint of purple. By the time you get as far as Corbett to the east, Canby to the south, or North Plains to the west, you're as Red as the Soviet banner. The entire eastern half of the state is as conservative as can be; nary a Democrat has been elected there since the repeal of the Sunset Laws back in the Sixties.And I'm as bad or worse than anything described in the article. I actively avoid Fox News, knowing that hearing the conservative take on events will produce a skeptical sneer in minutes and reduce me to incoherant rage after a quarter of an hour. I used to read conservative magazines such as American Spectator or National Review; now, I can't tolerate their worldviews enough to examine them for some traces of appeal. When I hear Beck, or Coulter, or Hannity, or Palin, entsichere ich meinen Browning.

If I'm any evidence - and I'm a well-educated white man, the very embodiment of the sort of person my society gives power to and trusts to rule - we're not even trying anymore.

The Economist review comes to the complacent conclusion that;
"Mr Bishop goes too far, however, when he says the “big sort” is “tearing [America] apart”. American politics may be polarised, but at least no one is coming to blows over it. “We respect each other's views,” says Mrs Wortendyke of the few liberals in the home-schooling movement. “We hate each other cordially,” says the liberal Mr Balis."
But I fear that that complacency is outdated. I find little remaining cordiality for conservative goals amid my neighbors and friends, while everything I hear and read, when I do stray into Fox News World, suggests that those who disagree with me and my friends do so violently.

Lincoln once said that a house divded against itself could not stand; that the nation could not exist half-slave and half-free. I wonder; can a nation half-Beck and half-Maddow long endure?But to preserve that house Lincoln had to fight a civil war. The half that was slave had to be beaten down. I have growing doubts that the Beck and Maddow nations can find any commonality. But I dread the possibility that the divide must be, not bridged, but conquered.

What can we going to do - can we do anything - about this? Or are we doomed, like the France of 1940, to tear ourselves apart until some foreign enemy enter to mercifully end our squabbling?

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