Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Seeing red and feeling blue

I saw an ad on Betsy's Page for "Bush Country" paraphernalia. I followed the link over to NewsMaxStore.com, where I found mouse pads and T-shirts for sale featuring the now famous "county by county" electoral map.

You've probably seen the map. When you break the country down into "red counties" (i.e. Bush-voting) and "blue counties" (Kerry-voting), you end up with a mostly red mass with smatterings of blue, primarily corresponding to extremely high population centers. It's an interesting look at America, and one which gives rise to many questions about who we are and why.

But what I wondered, as I looked at this merchandise, is why anyone would care to buy it. One ad states: "Let everyone—your friends, family and even liberals—know you're proud to be living in Bush Country!" and "You can win every argument with your liberal friends—just wear Bush Country and point to the map!"

I'm having trouble imagining what arguments this map might win, unless it's the question of whose supporters are scattered out over the largest area. That would be Bush, and I haven't heard anyone arguing otherwise.

Underneath the map are the words "My America!" I guess the intent is to boast or gloat over the impression that the country overwhelmingly supported Bush, to stick a thumb in the eye of liberals and show them how out of step they are with "real America." And if we elected the president based on land mass coverage, there might be something to this, but we don't.

So what's the point? As I say, the map itself is interesting and worth contemplating. But the message here is petty and divisive. This is the type of symbol losers typically cling to, applying an irrelevant measure when a relevant one doesn't serve the purpose. Gore supporters were scoffed at in 2000 for incessantly pointing out that he won the popular vote, but at least that claim had some basis in relevance.

We need to avoid nurturing an us versus them mentality. For conservatives to claim this is "my America" is as arrogant and condescending as the liberal elite are accused of being. This isn't a football game. It's not about who won and who lost, but about what's good for the country—all of the country—red and blue. We are not rivals; we are neighbors. We are Americans.

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