User:Woozle/2005-09-06 Thoughts on the Divide

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2006-07-25 addendum: Lately I've found myself agreeing more with what David Brin has to say on the subject, i.e. that the supposed Red-Blue Divide or "Culture War" is not so much an inherent crack separating two fundamentally different moral "sides" in this country as it is a deliberate attempt to find any notable crack, shine a light on it, and insert wedging implements to widen it, as a way of garnering support for a particular power-hungry cabal. Find a threat, magnify it, and convince as many people as possible that you're the only hope in fighting it: a very old recipe for power.

anonymous user 166.89.26.43 added: Sounds exactly like what Michael Crichton was describing in "State of Fear." A common enemy, even if it is the other half of the country, keeps the politicos in power.

Main Article

Having just recently read an enormous quantity of writing on the subject of GWB and The Red-Blue Divide, I think I'm finally understanding something. I hope any readers with one or more toes on the "Red" side of affairs will correct me if I am mischaracterizing them in any way.

Both sides are fighting to make (or keep) America the way they think it should be. There is nothing wrong with this; working towards the ideal of a country whose laws, actions, and expressed principles echo your basic beliefs is part of being a patriot, and although the idea of "patriotism" has been much maligned and misused at times, at face value it is a necessary quality for a country to have, preferably in quantity.

The problem, then, seems to be some very fundamentally different ideas about what America should be.

One of the reasons I started Issuepedia was to try and discover, through dialogue and mutual questioning, just what it was that the other ("Red") side believed. Nobody on that side has yet risen to the challenge, so I have had to resort to finding my own explanation.

I think I have found one. It explains a great deal, and if it is right it may be an indication that we have a problem that goes far beyond politics.

I'll start out by explaining my understanding of the respective values of Blue and Red America, as I understand them. Again, if anyone has a different understanding of either of those value-sets, I very much want to hear it; this writing is not an accusation, but an attempt at verification.

(In case it isn't obvious, I should also make it clear that these lists are not absolute; they are trends. Someone who voted for Bush is more likely to agree overall with the "Red" list than the "Blue" one, and someone who agrees with the "Red" list overall is more likely to have voted for Bush – but this will not hold true for everyone, nor for every rule on each list. These are, to put it metaphorically, the gravitational value-centers around which the two sides seem to be respectively orbiting.)

Blue America values:

  • independent thought
  • novelty, diversity
  • ingenuity, creativity
  • quality of life over quantity
  • discovery of important truths by the careful investigation and analysis of objective reality
  • willingness to question one's own thinking, down to the most basic assumptions
  • most of the things Red America values, within certain bounds

Red America values most of the things Blue America values, within certain bounds, but often trumped by the following:

  • personal loyalty, especially to strong leaders and certain preferred religious organizations
  • observance of established rules, rituals, etc. without excessive discussion
  • tradition
  • stability
  • safety
  • abundance of life (mainly human)
  • discovery of the most important truths through prayer, faith, and divine revelation
  • willingness to stick to one's decisions in the face of all opposition

I should stop, before I go on, and say that I do not think any of the "Red" values listed here are bad or wrong – much as a "Red" American reading this would probably not see anything wrong with the "Blue" values listed. "They all have their place," we might well both exclaim simultaneously – each referring to the other's list.

The difference, then, is how we prioritize them.

To me, independent thinking always trumps facts handed down from a central authority. I might decide to trust that central authority, and agree with what they say without (prior) question – but I make that decision, based on observation of the authority's behavior and track record. If a given authority has shown that they question their own thinking and examine the facts closely before coming to a conclusion – in short, that they behave as I try to – then I may decide to trust their decisions implicitly. I will, however, continue to do spot-checks on them whenever possible, as I would expect anyone to do for me.

Contrarily, it seems to be the case that GWB's most ardent supporters truly believe that strong leadership ("sticking to your guns") is more important than good (accurate) leadership, which involves the possibility of changing your mind when confronted with new information and is therefore weak-kneed and wishy-washy. When Bush refuses to back down and admit that the Iraq campaign might be going less well than planned, they cheer. When a Bush aide dismisses "reality-based thinking" as being unnecessary because America is an empire and can make its own reality, thank you, Red America says "you tell 'em, son!". (Don't mess with Texas.) When Bush says God has put him in office, that America has a Holy Cause to fight terrorism, and in general begins to sound like the very people he is supposedly fighting, Red America gets just a bit teary-eyed and says "God Bless You, Mister President!"

What they don't seem to understand – or perhaps they pointedly and proudly just don't care, as at least one Bush advisor has said1 – is that this kind of talk strikes fear into the deepest soul of Blue America2. It is a return to the Bad Old Days – and by that I don't mean the Bad Old Days before Starbuck's and wireless internet, nor the Bad Old Days before the Environmental Protection Agency, the Bad Old Days before abortion rights, the Bad Old Days before civil rights, or even the Bad Old Days before slavery was abolished. I mean the Bad Old Days before America was invented, when we generally had only two choices in how to rule a country: rule by strong man, or theocracy. Red America seems to want both.

If this is true, the Red-Blue Divide goes beyond politics. It has to do with the most fundamental ideas of how a country should be run, how people should live, and what is important in life.

I would even go so far as to say that the Red values, when allowed to override the Blue values, substantially betray the ideals with which America was created.

So please, tell me I'm wrong.

--Woozle 16:24, 6 Sep 2005 (CDT)

Notes

Note 1

http://www.truthout.org/docs_04/101704A.shtml : "You think he's an idiot, don't you? ... No, you do, all of you do, up and down the West Coast, the East Coast, a few blocks in southern Manhattan called Wall Street. Let me clue you in. We don't care. You see, you're outnumbered 2 to 1 by folks in the big, wide middle of America, busy working people who don't read The New York Times or Washington Post or The L.A. Times. And you know what they like? They like the way he walks and the way he points, the way he exudes confidence. They have faith in him. And when you attack him for his malaprops, his jumbled syntax, it's good for us. Because you know what those folks don't like? They don't like you!"

Which is ironic, since the actual split is much closer to 50-50 – but again, facts are not what is most important to a Bush supporter.

Note 2

...in large part because this seems entirely plausible or even likely. I came to the same conclusion myself long before reading that article. What seems even weirder is that Red America doesn't seem to recognize the betrayal taking place when votes are rigged. The idea that they might value certainty over accuracy, safety over freedom, would certainly explain this inattention: they approve of strong-man manoeuvering, as long as it successful – which, of course, it was.

Addenda

2005-09-25 Defenders of Iraq war counter-rally Referring to Cindy Sheehan and other anti-war demonstrators, "The group who spoke here the other day did not represent the American ideals of freedom, liberty and spreading that around the world," Sen. Jeff Sessions, an Alabama Republican, told the crowd. "I frankly don't know what they represent, other than to blame America first." ... One sign on the mall read "Cindy Sheehan doesn't speak for me" and another "Arrest the traitors"; it listed Sheehan's name first among several people who have spoken against the war.

Equating {opposition to America's current policy} and {opposition to America} is a corollary of Equating the Individual with the Office, which is in direct contradiction to the idea of freedom of speech and being able to criticize one's government. Remind me again – which side is being un-American?

I've moved a response and subsequent dialogue to the discussion page, for easier posting. --Woozle 19:32, 24 July 2006 (EDT)