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Welcome to Red State/Blue State, a feature presented by The Anniston Star of Anniston, Ala., and The Philadelphia Inquirer.

In the December 2001 edition of the Atlantic, David Brooks wrote an essay titled "One Nation, Slightly Divisible," in which he suggested that America is divided largely into two political cultures, one "red" and one "blue." His idea is based on those electoral maps in 2000 that colored majority-Republican states in red and majority-Democratic states in blue. Brooks' witty essay pictures the red-state voter as trending rural, a salt-of-the-earth type, concerned with individual liberty and family values, whereas the "blue" voter trends urban, more of a book-reader, a Beltway-savvy intellectual, the environmentally conscious soccer mom or dad.

Cliches? Maybe. But Brooks does have his finger on two very strong currents in the American votership. It's not that Pennsylvania is a "blue state" or Alabama is a "red state." It's that our two political cultures don't talk to each other much, or even know much about each other. To bridge that gap, we've brought together two "red" voters - John Franklin and Cynthia Sneed - and two "blue" voters, Terri Falbo and Timothy Horner. Each week, they'll ponder and debate the issues arising in the election campaign. The hope is that they'll model an intelligent discussion, a great big conference room where red and blue sit down together.

Monday, November 08, 2004

Terri Falbo, Blue Stater 

What are your feelings, hopes and fears after this election?

I am feeling profoundly sad. I have such great visions of what our country could be. My hopes would be for a country that really lives up to the ideals of liberty and justice for all - here and around the world . . . a government of the people, by the people, and for the people . . . moral values that include a moral economy and moral foreign policy . . . good education, health care, and financial security for all. These are my hopes and visions for my country. We have the means to accomplish all these things.

However, if policies advocated by President Bush prevail, I fear:

* More corporate control over our lives with a deeper real divide between the extremely wealthy and the rest of us - masked by phony, instigated "cultural" and "moral" divisions.

* A tax burden increasingly shifting to the working class under the guise of "simplification."

* Taxes used to support more dictators and puppet governments serving the interests of big business against the interests of the majority of people in both foreign countries and our own.

* A huge national debt that our children and grandchildren will owe largely to Saudis and other wealthy investors.

* Changes in Social Security made to line the pockets of Wall Street bigshots at the expense of many elderly people of the future.

* Increasing hostility from people of other countries who see our officials' talk of democracy and freedom as a sham and pretense to cover for imperial aims of dominance.

* More young people sent to die for the same empty claims.

* More terrorist attacks, partially because of a lack of emphasis on policies that would really make us more secure.

* A worsening environment and more and more children left behind by programs with titles portending the opposite.

I also fear the numerous evangelicals who have e-mailed me with their particular interpretation of scripture that includes supporting any steps toward nuclear war so we can hasten the Rapture.

America - not only can we do better, we must do better!
(6) comments

Timothy Horner, Blue Stater 

Last Question: What are your feelings, hopes and fears after this election?

A Liberal's Survival Guide for 2004-2008, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love George Bush

Here are 10 handy tips that will make a liberal's life easier to manage and less complex in the coming years:

1) Don't worry about people or things or events that do not have a direct impact on you. Ask yourself: Will his really affect me in any direct way? If the answer is no, then just don't think about it. There are plenty of people who will. If you don't have a son or daughter in Iraq, then stop moaning about the war.

2) Know your scope of influence. Problems in the world are just too big and too far away for us to do anything about. Ask yourself: Can I really do anything meaningful to help? If the answer is no, then don't sweat it. Take care of the things that really matter, like the things that directly affect your life right now, like how much of a tax refund you will get next April. Or gas prices.

3) Don't try to be an expert on everything. Rest assured: There are plenty of people who know more than you, and they will take care of it for you. That is what government is for. Knowing too much makes life complex. Better to know about the things that directly affect your life: your friends, your parents, your kids, getting that big promotion so you could maybe be in that top 2 percent some day.

4) Don't ask questions of those in charge. This is just bad all around. You are not equipped to ask questions (see number 3) and it is better if you don't. At the end of the day, the people in charge know what they are doing and they will take care things so you don't have to. Plus, you are not to blame if something goes wrong.

5) Avoid the "big picture." If you keep looking at the big picture, you are going to be miserable. Make the circle around you very small: just your family and the people you know or who are like you. Cut way back on your reading. TV is much better. Again, things get complex when you look at them from different angles. Problems come when you have too much info (number 3), or think that you have something to say (number 2). Seeing the big picture is just another way of worrying about things that do not concern you (number 1). Just pay attention to your own cares and concerns. Take care of yourself first, and if there is something left over . . . well, maybe then.

6) Realize that things are either right or wrong. Trying to think in between these two helpful categories will cause no end of confusion and ambiguity (both very bad!). If something is not right, then it is wrong. If it is not wrong, then it is right. Life is much better when you know and embrace this. The way you know the difference is if someone says it is from the Bible then it is right. You should not even bother checking whether this is right because of number 3 and number 4. If they say God says so, then He did.

7) We are right and they are wrong. This is related to each of the previous points, but it is really important to stress. Entertaining the idea that we (and we all know who we are) might not be right is the fast track to complexity, ambiguity and treason. There is nothing to be gained by any admission of fault; it only emboldens the enemy, saps our strength, and distracts us from the more important things in life, like what you are doing this weekend, or if you should go ahead and get the satellite dish, or if the FedEx guy is gay.

8) Defer to authority. I think Britney Spears said it best: "Right now, we just need to trust our leaders to do what's right." So true! Questioning authority implies that you are wondering about right and wrong (numbers 6 and 7), trying to see the big picture (5), asking questions (4), trying to be an expert (3), worrying about things that are outside your realm of influence (2) and don't concern you in the first place (1).

9) It looks like intolerance, but it is really Christian love. If you unconditionally affirm cultures other than America's, it will only encourage them. What's good for America is good the rest of the world. Period! Except for Jews; we need to encourage them a lot (especially to concentrate in Jerusalem), or else Jesus will not come back.

10) (Liberal Christians only) Don't talk about Jesus so much any more or ask "What Would Jesus Do?" Jesus never ran the greatest democracy in the world. Bush knows way more about how to run this country than Jesus does. It's like asking Jesus for help installing a wireless network in your house. How silly. Instead, ask: "WWBD?"

If you do not follow these steps, your life will only be plagued by uncertainty and heartache. The best you can do is make sure that you meet the obligations that concern you and your immediate future. Whatever bad things are happening in the world (death and evil and war and torture and famine) will go away if you just don't look at it.

By the way, if you found yourself nodding in agreement to anything on this list, then this country is in a whole lot of trouble.

(0) comments

Cynthia Sneed, Red Stater 

Last Question: What are your feelings, hopes and fears after this election?

My feelings:

I am going to defy conventional wisdom here because I do not think that America has experienced a "huge shift to the right" (sorry, Limbaugh and Hannity).

I believe the "shift" occurred on Sept. 11, 2001.

The Democratic Party leadership and political pundits want to believe this election was all about homosexuality and gay/lesbian marriage. Typical liberals, they confuse morals and values.

I do not know if it is ignorance or naiveté that leads the Democratic Party today. They still believe that they lost this election because of right-wing, Bible-believing, flag-waving, gun-toting, brain-dead, homophobic Christian morons.

No: The Americans who held hands, cried in church, wept with neighbors, flew their flags, and gave hundreds of millions of dollars to the victims of 9/11, wear their little American flag pins proudly and still get misty-eyed when the National Anthem is played. Those are the people who voted Tuesday.

Today's Democrat fails to see that 9/11, the day that did not "change" John Kerry's life very much, was the defining moment of our generation, and that this moment is as important to us as their halcyon counterculture days 40 years ago. Typical baby boomers, their self-absorption obscures their view of reality.

We are disrespected, loathed and ridiculed by vainglorious, aging baby boomers, washed-up rock stars, and Hollywood celebrities languishing in the glory of their "revolution" movement - now in complete control of the party of FDR and JFK.

Democrats politicized a war that my generation is committed to winning. Humiliated by Iran in 1979, frustrated by the numerous attacks during the 1990s, and infuriated by 9/11, we see that the war on terror must be prosecuted into regions and against enemies far beyond the Afghanistan-Pakistan border and Osama bin Laden.

The attack that apparently had little effect on the Democrats' golden child is our Pearl Harbor. This is our opportunity to combat evil, saving future generations from the horror, grief and humiliation we suffered on that fateful day - just as we saved countless Jews, homosexuals, Catholics, and mentally challenged people from Naziism.

Everything we had done for the last three years to rebuild from the 9/11 attacks -every sacrifice, every tear, every offered prayer - was the wrong thing to do and we were the wrong people to do it.

My hopes:

* I hope that never again will we have an election in which working mom is pitted against homemaker, teacher against student, grandparents against grandchildren, parents against childless couples, married couples against gay and lesbian partners, gays and lesbians against the rest of us, black against white, white against Hispanic, legal Hispanic against illegal Hispanic, old against young, poor against all, lower-income class against middle class, middle class against rich and the rich against traditional everyday Americans.

* I hope we never have another election in which spoiled-brat Hollywood movie stars who wash their hair with Evian, bathe their pets with Perrier, and take expensive spa coffee colonics (that's an enema for you guys down South) insert themselves into an election to tell us all how/why/when/where to vote.

* I hope we never have another election in which a billionaire candidate with a French middle name and six estates, a yacht, powerboat, Lear Jet, fleet of SUVs and sundry other toys takes it upon him/herself to tell the rest of us mere "working people" how we are getting along. We don't need this power bourgeoisie leading the proletariat unwashed masses down the road of new-age enlightenment.

* I hope we never have another election in which a bunch of old, white-guy journalists try to sway the election with made-up stories, working past their bedtimes on election night into the wee hours of the morning sticking pushpins on state maps, hoping against hope that provisional ballots are in Kerry country and not dispersed (as indeed they were) across the state (why, I'm as nervous about Bush winning Ohio as a long-tailed cat in a room full of rocking chairs).

* I hope we never have another election in which our favorite TV shows become soapboxes for the Democratic National Committee, so that Noah Wyle on ER will not be anguished over the greedy capitalist imperialist Americans who never give enough money to Africa and Europe. Law and Order can go back to story lines about rape, robbery and murder, Tony Soprano can create mayhem without waxing poetic about unsafe shipping containers, and entire TV sitcoms with what used to be our favorite stars can stop being centered on the DNC agenda.

* I hope that 527s are banned forever and that George Soros goes back under whatever rock he crawled out from and takes Michael Moore and his camera with him.

* I hope Katie Couric does not wrinkle any more than she is already from her lovely furrowed brow and sad eyes, and I hope NBC footed the bill for that funeral Wednesday morning on the Today. Actually, I hope Katie goes the way of all washed-up old celebrity-journalists and takes Barbara Walters' place. And I hope this does not throw Star Jones off her diet.

* Finally, I hope that we have learned a lesson about the "two Americas." There are not two Americas. There is only one America, and we are damn proud of our country. America is not some dark, sinister place where the average American is oppressed only to be lifted into the light of a higher being by liberal Democrats on a mission. America is that shining city on the hill where others want to come and will die trying, where even our poor people are overweight, and where whenever some other country gets in deep poo they come running to us for salvation.

As for fear? I ain't afraid of nothing: W stands for WINNER!!

(0) comments

Joe Franklin, Red Stater 

Last Question: What are your feelings, hopes and fears after this election?

I feel that politics has never been taken as seriously in the South as in the Blue States.

I've learned that many in the Blue States take their politics as seriously as cancer. In the South, we have not had it so bad in the last four years - but we have never had it as good as those in the Blue States. Maybe that is why they think it is so bad now.

I feel that this country is not divided. People are just different. We are United.

My hopes for this county are:

* That the media will report the news, not manufacture it.

* That Hollywood celebrities will return to being entertainers and not partisan rabble-rousers.

* That Michael Moore will undergo gastric bypass surgery and a makeover. I hope he will be unrecognizable and unheard in 2008.

* That political parties and pollsters will be required to honor the National Do Not Call Registry. I hung up the phone three times during this campaign, once during one of the debates.

* That both parties will abandon nonpolitical issues such as gay marriage and religion. Religion is not a political issue. It should be as personal as a toothbrush.

* That people become more tolerant of one anothers' opinions, regardless of how different they might be from your own opinion. Opinions are like birthdays and certain body parts: everybody has one!

* That all Americans take a good look at their personal economy. The issue of economy should first be addressed at the family level. Millions attend sports events regularly with tickets costing in excess of $50.00 each. They travel hundreds of miles to these events in gas-guzzling SUVs and RVs, lodge in five-star hotels, eat at choice restaurants, and drink expensive liquor. These folks don't earn $200,000.00 per year. Their credit cards are maxed out. Yet they whine and bellyache about health care, Social Security, wages, and employment.

* That our European neighbors will have a divine recollection of the United States saving their butts in World War II and remember the American blood that was shed for them.

* That people would ponder the meaning of the words liberal and conservative. Consult a dictionary. Both of these words have several good attributes. A meshing of the two is what we have had for decades. We will survive.

Fear breeds pessimism! Optimism breeds hope!

Now how do I say goodbye to my editors, cohorts and readers? I've been outclassed by the intellectuals. At times I have felt like a fly in a pan of milk! Thank you all for tolerating me.

(0) comments


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   •  11/07/2004 - 11/14/2004

Bloggers from
Blue State (Pa.)

Terri Falbo

Born and raised in Southwestern Pennsylvania, Terri Falbo is a union organizer who has lived in Philadelphia for almost 30 years. She graduated from Temple University and previously worked as a construction worker for 17 years.

Tim Horner

Tim Horner grew up in Iowa, but has lived out significant chunks of his adult life in Chicago, IL and Oxford, England. He is married and has four children (14, 12, 10 and 7). Having grown up as an Evangelical in the Midwest and still a practicing Christian, he is concerned with how religion and politics mix. Because of a combination of circumstance and apathy, he has never voted in a presidential election. He currently teaches Humanities at Villanova University.
Bloggers from
Red State (Ala.)

Joe Franklin

Alabama native Joe Franklin, 58, was born in Pike County and grew up on a farm in Crenshaw County. He graduated from Troy State University in 1967. After working for 28 years with the Alabama Board of Pardons and Paroles as a parole and probation officer, retired to Crenshaw County, which is just south of Montgomery, where he spends his days working on the farm.

Cynthia Sneed

Gadsden resident and local college professor Cynthia Smith Sneed has a doctorate in Accounting from the University of Alabama. Her fields of academic research are in state pension and employee benefit issues. She has been published in numerous academic accounting journals and has done research for the Alabama Policy Institute. She is a member of the American Accounting Association, Governmental Finance Officers Association as well as being active in the Republican Party.

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