"The universe is made of stories, not of atoms."

—Muriel Rukeyser

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Un-Civil War between Our Two Americas by Kenneth Atchity

 


Walls we don’t see are often stronger than walls we see. Election after election, the blue-red map clearly shows these United States of America are united by fable only, and in nearly every other way really are two Americas.

Rejiggering the Electoral College won’t alleviate the situation because (a) the Electors actually serve an important purpose, as long as the country is configured the way it currently is; and (b) neither Party can achieve the reconfiguration: the Party in power will not allow it, and the opposing Party won’t have the votes to make it happen. Anyway it won’t solve the deep schizophrenia manifest in the concept of a single America, one perhaps so endemic that the founding fathers were also struggling with it.

Conservative America

Today the walls are pretty well-defined. “Conservative America” is by far the bulk of the American land mass. It extends from Florida north to North Carolina and west to the border of California (with the quirky up jutting of New Mexico and Colorado). It includes the entire South and Midwest, and Alaska.

Conservative America is the land of apple pie, of lawn and porch flags, picnics in the park, Christian churches disseminating not only platitudes but also attitudes that hold society together focused firmly on the past and therefore worshiping old-fashioned conservative values, homogeneity —and fierce nostalgia for the way things were and are supposed to remain. Hospitality yes, tolerance not so much. Feminism is viewed with alarm, and the “right to life” outweighs a woman’s right to choose and control her body and her future. Though diversity has made fiscal inroads in nearly every state of Conservative America, it has not found a permanent place in the minds and hearts of the folks, mostly white, in control. Conservative America is the birthplace and habitat of the Tea Party and of the right to bear arms at all times.

I was born in one Conservative American state, Louisiana, and raised through high school in another, Missouri. The population of the thirty states that comprise Conservative America is around 100,000,000, or 1/3 of the whole. Conservative America, because it occupies more States, has more Electors.

Progressive America

Since I drove away to college at Georgetown in D.C. at the age of seventeen I’ve lived in Progressive America ever since: Connecticut, California, and New York. Progressive America occupies the entire Pacific coast from California, with Hawaii by extension—to Washington, and the blue islands of Nevada, Colorado, New Mexico surrounded by the red sea; on the northern border, Illinois and Minnesota; and, on the Atlantic, north from Virginia to Maine and west through Pennsylvania. You might argue that Progressive American is synonymous with urban America, and Conservative America with rural America. But it’s not quite that simple.

If Conservative America is the land of hard-headed practicality, Progressive America welcomes dreamers, many of them immigrants from Conservative America, and many of whose dreams seem to come true—and shape the world’s future. It’s La La Land vs. Hell or High Water.

Progressive America salutes the American flag and truly loves the idea of America; but it can also applaud turning that flag into panties, bras, and protest banners. The Progressive idea of America embraces the future, which it honors with hope and belief in the genius of the individual; diversity. It’s the land of civil rights most widely defined; of gun control; of visionary education, its leading universities including UCLA, Berkeley, and Stanford, Northwestern not to mention Harvard, Yale, Columbia, and Princeton; and of people who worry about global warming and try to do something about it.

Progressive America isn’t afraid of the word socialism because it’s understood to mean people showing their gratitude for abundance and their respect for others by making sure all citizens have an acceptable and meaningful life. While Conservative America fears immigration as a threat to its conservatism, Progressive America embraces immigrants as the defining reality of its concept of America, “land of immigrants.” The statue of liberty guards its coast and its citizens still adhere to Emma Lazarus’ verse:

…From her beacon-hand

Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command

The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.

“Keep ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she

With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”


Roughly two-thirds of the United States’ population, around 200 million people, live within Progressive America—2/3 of the whole.

The Dangers of Division

In each America live citizens whose hearts yearn, secretly or not, for the other America. Their exile is allowed, if they can bear it. If they can’t, they’re still free to cross from one America to the other.

Loquacious citizens of both Americas have hearts and minds that feel and think their views are superior to those of the other America. But most would agree there’s room on the continent for both Americas. Each is free to visit the other, as though we were the American Common Market.

Should we formalize the reality we all recognize and restructure things a bit so that Californians and New Yorkers, the leading states of Progressive America, can elect their own President to push their liberal, even socialist, agendas? Elections held in Conservative America would allow their President to maintain the conservative standard. Between the two Americas, trade would be arranged to advance the fraternal needs of both citizenries. Respect and civility would grow from the integrity of each America, to replace the hatred now streaming between them because of the deeply-held and media-reinforced belief on both parts that the “other America” is either evil or insane—or both. We could talk to each other instead of imitating the shouting mode of

I, for one, love both Americas, and would hate to lose either, or see violence between them extend from words to bullets.

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