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Shortly after the November 7th, 2000 election, I wrote a commentary for the Chicago Sun-Times that began: The cliffhanger 2000 election reveals not only a divided government , but a nation divided in a specific way. Looking at the various colored maps of the United States showing states won and lost, it is clear that George W.’s America is Yahoo Nation (not the dot com Yahoo, but Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels sort). It is a large, lopsided horseshoe, a twisted W, made up of primarily the deep south and the vast, lowly populated upper-far-west states that are filled with vestiges of gun-loving, Ku Klux Klansponsoring , formerly lynching-happy, survivalist-minded, hatecrime -perpetrating, non-blue-blooded, rugged individualists. Yahoo Nation, George W.’s electoral bundle–save contested Florida, the toss-up state–contains not one major city, nor one primary center of creative and intellectual density. That column generated a lot of protest; I received over 500 e-mails of denunciation. My piece was a bit intemperate; but, nonetheless, I wrote an e-mail reply that I sent to the unhappy 500. Below is a portion of what it contained: Obviously, all the other states of the union have their own vestiges of gun-loving, etc. What they don’t have are the great cities I Blue & Red America Post September 11th 125 126 mentioned in the piece. The city/country conflict has been a subject of discussion for centuries. Don’t you think it is peculiar that George W. did not win one of those cities? When Bush’s father, and Ronald Reagan, captured the presidency, they won a number of them. (And, even in the states young Bush won, he lost many of their large, metro-­ politan centers.) Don’t you think that circumstance is worth pointing out forcefully? It is, as I wrote, unprecedented in modern America history. The elder Bush’s administration (and the Bushes are no Yahoos) let the more Yahoo-inclined Republicans in congress do their best to end federal support of the arts and humanities. When government attempts to end certain programs, it is not getting off the backs of the people, but just setting its own kind of preferred social policy. There is a cultural divide in this country, exacerbated not by me, but by conservative groups that choose to demonize whatever they decide they don’t like. It would be nice to bring the country together, but young Bush, unfortunately, owes the right wing of the Republican Party big time. The cultural differences involved are found in the classic city/country conflict. They are significant and they were hardly discussed in the campaign–unless abortion (barely spoken of by both candidates) is to be made a proxy for all cultural conflicts. Of course, I don’t think Americans living in states Bush won are Yahoos–only a self-chosen selected few. But George W.’s campaign certainly made profitable use of them. What my many e-mailers vehemently objected to was the idea of big cities themselves. “Big cities” functioned as code words (though some e-mails were quite explicit) in their complaints for minority populations, especially blacks and Jews. And then, not a year into George W. Bush’s presidency, came September 11th, and the world changed. Red and Blue America, for the short term, at least, became Red, White, and Blue America. New York 127 City, the place so many of my e-mailers hated, became beloved by all. Across the country, money was collected, to be sent to the bereaved of the City, especially the relatives of the police and fire department personnel who were killed. It has been pointed out by many that Americans, as a group, have short memories and attention spans. But this national quality is not all bad. The war against terrorism has forced a national amnesia in a lot of areas, an erasing of historic memory. In fact, because we can forget, Americans can move on in any number of areas. It’s the remembering which often divides us. The sort of memory that drove the Middle Eastern terrorists to attack us, and continues to divide eastern Europe, the former Yugoslavia, Ireland, Israel, and other sites of continuing religious and national conflict. We forget: it’s our country’s blessing, and curse. Very few voters going to the polls last November remembered anything (or much) about the cultural conflicts of the Bush I administration, those that raged from 1988–92...


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MARC Record
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