Like probably a majority of some 50-million other people who cast their ballots for change, I went from voting blue to feeling blue. On November 2, I sat on the living room couch with my fiancé, watching the national election map of the U.S., and we saw red as row upon vertical row of states lit up vermillion while the electoral college vote count on the TV screen tipped the scale in Bush’s favor.
We were seeing red; red as far as the mind could fathom, audibly ticking off the issues that matter so much to us as a couple: jobs availability and income growth, health insurance, savings, education, safety and security, environmental health, aging and social security, justice, high gas prices, protection of privacy, etc.
Though I knew this before the election, I felt it all the more strongly after Kerry conceded. It appears that the ideological themes which drive the red and blue sides are so mutually exclusive that we are irretrievably going in different directions culturally, socially, economically, spiritually, religiously, etc. It feels like a nation so deeply divided, the Grand Canyon itself seems like an emblem of unity.
In Red Nation, an ultraconservative agenda seeks to roll back many 20th century social gains, crushing labor’s aims, limiting access to courts, rendering some forms of love illegal, opening the environment to unpopular uses, pushing social security toward social insecurity—the list goes on. And in this barrage of repeals quickly working their way to the forefront, what can I as a woman look forward to in Red Nation? Equal pay? Less media consolidation? No draft? Broke elderly relatives? No option to choose?
In Red Nation, we were told the rallying logo was “moral values.” As if, in Blue Nation, calls for liberty, justice and the pursuit of happiness for all; calls for truth, openness, fairness, accountability and access to recourses (and information), were not moral values. All those I know who voted blue and now feel so are law-abiding, respectful, reflective, thoughtful, spiritual people. Mostly, they believe in “live and let live.” More conservative than some self-declared conservatives, they also believe in less government involvement in private affairs. I, as a blues-feeling-sometimes-more-conservative-than-some-Red-Nation-members woman, for example, imagined expanding business opportunities and new markets in allowing same-sex partnerships to go the way of the altar (not to mention taxation revenue from marriage licenses). I should have thought that some “conservatives” would have stressed those points for the sake of profit.
What is the ultimate image, vision, utopia of Red Nation? What is the critical conclusion—and reality—of this vision? Are there even desirable jobs left in Red Nation, after so many are outsourced and it’s gone the way of a two-class system: rich and poor? Do you still have the right to desire—a good-paying job, a family with children in a same-sex-couple home, advancement, lots of opportunities, something other than what feels like the dark ages?
I was closer to Blue Nation in my mind and my heart several days ago. Now, that closeness seems like a dream, and I share in the surprise—even shock—that blue is not the first primary color behind which a majority pledges itself, undivided under God. Blue, the color of the sky, is itself a rich symbol of what lies beyond: possibilities, the sun, the moon (which we physically reached), the stars, space we explored, mystery, infinity or eternity. That blue is big enough for all humans on earth and demands little from us, except perhaps that we pay it forward with respect, acknowledgement and recognition.
But after the shock comes motion. “The best way out of a storm,” a sea captain once told me as we hit 15-foot Atlantic waves in a little trimaran, “is to plow ahead.”
And plow I will, renewed, redoubled in the conviction that a genuine and healthy democracy demands an alert and informed citizenry; and plow ahead I will, believing in a vibrant democracy that seeks minds which are active and engaged with each other; people of vision who are courageous in the face of setbacks and adversity; people who are brave as they take on challenges.
Yes, a few days ago I saw lots of Red and much less Blue.
Today, I take heart from the words I read in the progressive press; I am inspired by the conversations with family and friends as struck as I was by the elections results; and I search within myself the next best course to sail, seriously exploring the option of running for public office on the Green ticket. Change for the better can also continue with me and anybody else in many other ways. We, too, can become the direct expressions of a reenergized demos. However difficult times of crises may be, they can also be opportunities for awareness and action. I believe a better future requires an even better present, so as an old Belgian friend told my mother when she once had the blues, “Courage, courage, courage.”
Karen Landers is a Detroit-based editor who works in advertising. She is a former congressional aide, conversation salon host, public radio reporter-producer and freelance writer. She is currently finishing up her master’s of English at Wayne State University. She lives in the country with her fiancé and two dogs, one of which she trains in agility. She can be reached at email@example.com.