Liberalworld vs. Jesusland

BY MELINDA MCLELLAN

I think I speak for the major-ity of blue voters when I say that by a week after the elections, most of us had settled down. We’re not happy, no. But we’ve let up on the weeping. For now. Maybe because we can tell ourselves that nothing has changed, that we’ve just stagnated in a very, very unfortunate status quo. The country hasn’t gone to hell in a handbasket – yet. At least it isn’t any worse than it was on November 1st. For the moment, we can live in ignorant bliss of how horrible the next four years could be.

Last week was a different story. For me, November 3, 2004 felt vaguely like September 12, 2001. That same shock and disbelief, sadness and sympathy, anxiety bordering on fear, along with a sense of utter impotence in the face of an event that would negatively affect my country and my life.

I mean no disrespect by this analogy; certainly the election had none of the violent human tragedy of 9/11. In a way, however, the morning after November 2nd felt worse for people like me. I was not on the East Coast on September 11th, and I did not know anyone who died. I was affected, of course, as an American citizen. But whereas the terrorist attacks drew all Americans together in a sense of unity and shared grief, in this case half of the country is smugly gleeful about a situation that I find seriously upsetting.

I think I can figure out what pushed those who supported the President in his direction in many cases, but I fundamentally disagree with their way of thinking. Fair enough, most of them fundamentally disagree with me and my so-liberal-I’m-almost-French attitude. I, however, reject the red state/blue state dichotomy. There are red and blue people everywhere. Moreover, this election showed that it isn’t just a question of political positions or party preferences; this country is divided by conflicting ideologies. Ideologues and zealots don’t confine themselves to particular states.

Many of the states went to one candidate or the other by very slim margins. Even the wide margins weren’t quite so dramatic: Kerry got 37% of the vote in my home state of bleeding red Kansas, and Bush got 37% of the vote here in cobalt blue Massachusetts. So basically what I’m saying is that we can’t just cut the country up into Liberalworld and Jesusland. Because while here in Cambridge a hefty percentage of the population finds the term Jesusland funny-creepy, there are residents of every state in the union who think it sounds like a great place to live.

It’s not that I think Kerry was the answer to all our problems. Over the course of the campaign, learning more about him and his actions as a young man and a lifelong public servant, I grew to believe that he probably deserved to be president. At least as much as anyone can be said to deserve such a thing, and certainly more than Bush deserved to get another go at it. But, no, I didn’t think the country would magically heal itself if Kerry won. I just knew that Bush winning would make things worse.

So it’s not Kerry’s defeat that upset me, per se. It’s Bush’s aggravatingly incomprehensible victory. And the triumph of the Republicans across the board. The voters in eleven more states, decisive majorities of them, went out of their way to constitutionally deprive fellow citizens of the right to marry each other. I often wonder how all of Bush’s rhetoric about defending freedom somehow doesn’t apply to gay people. Or how he wraps his head around the hypocrisy that destroying lives to save other lives is A-OK in Iraq, but totally immoral when it comes to stem cells.

Perhaps we should change the last stanza of the national anthem to something more like “O’er the land of the free (to do anything that our God approves of, so long as it doesn’t give us the willies) and the home of the brave (because we’re armed to the hilt and can blow your country off the map).” I’m always amused when someone talks about the military defending “our” freedom in Iraq. The military is doing many things in Iraq, but defending my freedom it is not. If someone wants to send an armored division into the Ashcroft justice department, well, that might be a start toward preserving my civil liberties. Pre-emptive war in the Middle East doesn’t do me a damn bit of good if I have to worry that I could get in trouble for writing this column.

In something of a desperate attempt to put a happy spin on this debacle, I have found a silver lining for myself and any of my fellow students who will be joining the BigFirm practice of law in the near future. We will soon be moving into one of the President’s favorite tax brackets, and will be in a position to benefit from his uncompromising devotion to high-income earners. Are those few extra thousand dollars worth having an inarticulate cowboy war hawk representing our country? No. But hey, more quality leather goods and high-tech toys!

What other positive things could come of this Presidency? Well, there’s always the possibility of a nasty, entertaining impeachment. After all, two of the last three two-term presidents have been impeached. Sure, it would be bad for the country. And yes, it would mean actual employment of the disturbing term “President Cheney.” But for all of us who personally resent Bush the way the neo-cons resented Clinton, it would be a moment of glory. Further, this time we would get a big thumbs up from the rest of the world, as opposed to looking like a nation of witch-hunting prudes.

And it’s going to be interesting to see Bush try to spend all this “political capital” he seems to feel is burning a hole in his pocket. Personally, I think that first he should consider paying back the political capital he had to steal in order to govern from the far right after not winning the last election. Unfortunately, being concerned about debt or, really, paying for anything, doesn’t seem to be this President’s style.

But no, the end is not nigh. It is indeed a dark moment in history for lefties in America, but at least we have each other. And Jon Stewart. And we have secured all of the most exciting cities in the country as solidly blue safe havens of culture, fine dining, and liberalism. So chin up, everyone. As Boston fans learned this season, sometimes it’s fun to be the underdog.

Melinda McLellan is a 3L who wants to organize a Blue Pride parade in Dixie.

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