23 11 2008

Recently I got gently reproached by my favorite cousin for some of the content of “Plagiarism is the Sincerest Form of Flattery.” She’s a Southern Baptist and, apparently, a conservative Republican, so I can see why she would have been offended. She is also a smart cookie, a good citizen, a hard worker at a socially-valuable job, and a kind and caring person.

I’m sure there are millions of Americans like her. How is the bitter liberal or leftist to deal with the existence of such people?

By looking inside himself for the source of his bitterness, maybe?

What I find when I do that is simply fear.

When I reposted the fantasy of Blue States’ seceding from the Union I was very uneasy. The election of President Obama had made me hopeful for the first time since the Reagan days about the future of the USA–but it was a tremulous hope. Something that I value greatly has a better chance now than it did before of being preserved, but it could also be catastrophically lost. The current slide downward of the world economy could unleash extreme rightest forces that could take it all away. Think Germany in the early 1930s.

There has been created in the Blue States over the last 50 years a new order of personal freedom that was unimaginable to me when and where I grew up (Texas, 1950s and 1960s). A young person today is free to be any of a number of things–Republican or Democrat, right-winger or leftist, atheist or devout, gay or straight, business-obsessed workaholic or epicurean layabout, faithfully-married spouse or sexual libertine, etc., etc. No longer is there just one socially-acceptable way to be a man or woman–a single acceptable role defined by stern religious authorities who cite innumerable rules which are all declared to be from God, and therefore unwaivable.

The rule setters were in charge everywhere in the old days, except maybe the biggest cities. Individuals in those days could not stand against all that authority and be themselves, unless they were willing to absorb unbelievable amounts of social pressure and abuse. So they suppressed their deviant thoughts and/or feelings and/or politics and created false selves that lived out the prescribed conventional lives, hidden in plain sight among the truly conventional.

Today the rest of the First World, notably Europe, has been out of that box for a couple of generations at least.

But here in the USA the issue is still in doubt. We liberal Blue Staters fear that folks in the Red States will do what their leaders, at least, seem hell-bent on doing—getting the whole nation back in the box that I grew up in in the ‘50s or ‘60s. I remember it with such sadness that I am terrified of its return.

And that is why we make fun of the folks on the opposite side of the Great Culture War. Humor binds fear.