"One's first step in wisdom is to question everything--and one's last is to come to terms with everything." ~ Georg Christoph Lichtenberg
Vermont Agrees to Disagree
Did Vermont just secede from the Union?
You may have missed it, but roughly 50 Vermont towns passed resolutions last week calling for the return of their National Guardsmen from Iraq.
'They can't do that,' you say.
Sure they can. They just did.
Now, whether they'll look to enforce those resolutions'that's another issue, and the answer remains to be seen. This could all be purely symbolic, of course. And if it is, it wouldn't surprise me. But who knows? Vermont could be serious about this. After all, these resolutions were passed on Town Meeting Day, when Vermonters met in their respective jurisdictions to discuss such local issues as school funds and' um, snow blowers. They didn't get together to shoot the breeze, you see. They got together to take care of business. And war is business. It's serious stuff.
So is Vermont serious or what?
Well, to call this 'secession' is admittedly premature. Okay, to call it 'premature' is, itself, premature. No one's talking secession here. Except me. And maybe the Second Vermont Republic (a secessionist movement in Vermont). I bring it up for a reason, though. Namely, because civil war fits neatly into the Red State/Blue State discussion.
Think about it. Is civil war not the direction in which we're headed? For years now, the media has fostered this idea that Red States and Blue States actually exist. The idea is predicated on one thing and one thing only'the presidential election. Blue States vote Democrat; Red States, Republican. No room for the many strains of liberalism, conservatism, and none-of-the-abovism. Just one or the other. Case closed. End of story.
Oh, and one more thing: Neither side likes the other. At all.
Now, it's true you can learn a lot about a state based on the guy it wants in the White House. If a candidate's platform includes flu shots, pony rides, and beating up queers, then some combination of flu shots, pony rides, and beating up queers undoubtedly plays well in any state that votes for him. That's fine, as far as it goes. (Not the beating up queers part. The part about' ah, you know what I mean.) However, the fact that all 50 states went to George Bush and John Kerry doesn't mean Americans belong in Red and Blue folders. All it means is the system only gave us two choices. And two lousy choices at that.
Red States and Blue States wouldn't be a problem if the only thing they existed for was coloring election night maps. But since we've got nothing better to talk about, we sit around for four years talking about what those maps mean. As a result, voters in Red States become 'Red Staters' and voters in Blue States become 'Blue Staters.' Not Texans and Californians. Not humans. Not even Bush and Kerry supporters. 'Red Staters' and 'Blue Staters.' It's shorthand. Plain and simple.
Well, fine. You want to call them that? Call them that. But it's not exactly accurate. And, if anything, it only serves to create the perception of categories that aren't actually there.
Case in point: Pennsylvania's a Blue State. So is Hawaii. So you're going to tell me Pennsylvanians and Hawaiians are brothers in arms? How? Look, as a Pennsylvanian, I have no qualms with Hawaiians. I'm sure they're nice people. But the Hawaiian life'which revolves around grass skirts, volcanoes, and hanging ten, dude'and the Pennsylvanian life'which revolves around football and pretzels'are nothing alike. Pennsylvania has a lot more in common with its next-door neighbor, Ohio. But since that's a Red State, I guess it means Ohioans are 'diametrically opposed' to me? That doesn't seem fair. What did I ever do to them?
The problem, as I see it, lies not in cultural differences but in the fact that we've learned to tie our cultural differences to electoral outcomes. Red States and Blue States are not 'real,' necessarily. But they are self-perpetuating.
This brings us back to Vermont.
Now, Vermont, as you know, is a 'bastion of liberalism.' And like other bastions of liberalism, Vermont is unhappy the Democrats lost last year. The way they see it, Bush's victory is a mandate for war. And even though Kerry's victory would've been a mandate for war, too, Kerry didn't win. Bush did. And Vermont doesn't like him or his stinking war. So they're giving the feds two middle fingers and telling them to get lost.
This creates a slight breach in etiquette.
Again, this could all be symbolic. But what if it isn't? What if other Blue States follow their lead? What if hundreds of similar resolutions are passed throughout the Northeast and Great Lakes regions? And what if Blue Staters, inspired by national-election desperation, seek to control their own National Guardsmen in a last-ditch effort to bring the boys home? Will Red Staters see it as an effort to compromise national security and/or undermine President Bush? How will they ask Washington to respond? With force? Perhaps it's not likely, but it's certainly conceivable.
The Vermont resolutions may not kick start a Blue State secession, but they could easily kick start a discussion on the power of the federal government. And don't get me wrong: I'm okay with that. Government power deserves to be challenged'especially when it comes to war. However, while I'm a fan, so to speak, of the Civil War (i.e., I like to study it), I don't think I'd enjoy it if a second one happened tomorrow. After all, as a swing state voter with no connection to either political party, I have issues with both sides.
If you ask me, there should be a color beyond the Red and Blue spectrum to represent peaceful coexistence'not a state of being, but a state of mind. In fact, forget colors. Colors won't do the trick. From now on, I'm a Translucent American.
You can have your civil wars and cultural divides if you want 'em. I'd rather gear up for baseball season than spend the summer dying for freedom or' um, snow blowers.
Who's coming with me?