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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

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.


   •  08/01/2004 - 08/08/2004
   •  08/08/2004 - 08/15/2004
   •  08/15/2004 - 08/22/2004
   •  08/22/2004 - 08/29/2004
   •  08/29/2004 - 09/05/2004
   •  09/05/2004 - 09/12/2004
   •  09/12/2004 - 09/19/2004
   •  09/19/2004 - 09/26/2004
   •  09/26/2004 - 10/03/2004
   •  10/03/2004 - 10/10/2004
   •  10/10/2004 - 10/17/2004
   •  10/24/2004 - 10/31/2004
   •  10/31/2004 - 11/07/2004
   •  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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