In the wake of one of the nastiest political seasons in memory (though it is likely that the 2010 behavior was just a relatively mild this-is-what-happens-when-you-don’t-have-an-afternoon-nap tantrum compared to what we might see in 2012), we heard politicians and politically oriented types talk about many things, some sensible and some just crazy. One of the concepts we heard a great deal about, especially from Tea Party supporters, was the idea of “taking back our country.”
Interesting idea that is, to contemplate taking back one’s country. As if a Civil War that haunts us still and claimed nearly 700,000 lives (at a time when the U.S. population was about a tenth of what it is today) didn’t teach us anything about the dangers of dividing a nation by slavery, war, or ill-thought screeching. As if any one individual or group, much less those in elective office, would have the right under our Constitution as it stands now to grab even part of a country or the thinking that goes on in the heads of a country’s citizens. And what is it, exactly, that they want to take back?
For the sake of fanciful argument, let’s suppose the country (people, land and resources) could be “taken back.” To ease things along, let’s say the country will be divided into only two nations, the countries of Those Who Believe and Those Who Have Faith. And let’s suppose the division will be done by people who agree they will not spit on each other or go on cable news shows during the negotiations and condemn the other side to life in either Washington, D.C., or Casper, Wyoming, whichever is considered worse. Where would they start?
Where to make the cut?
It’s too easy to say just wield the ax along the old Mason-Dixon Line or between the most current electoral True Blue United States and Exceptionally Red United States. Because even the largest and sharpest of axes won’t make a really clean and divisive cut.
For instance, what does one do about a state such as Virginia, which was “Red” in 2004 but quite Blue in 2008, complete with three latte-serving Starbucks in the old Confederate capital of Richmond itself? Or Florida, which was at the very least an intensely deep shade of Purple in 2000, Red enough in 2004, but pretty Blue in 2008. Won’t making people from the other nation use a passport to visit Disney World or stay in their Fort Lauderdale winter condo hurt the tourism business, especially if airfares to Mexico or Jamaica are on sale?
Will the 119,555 John McCain voters in Alameda County, California, home to Berkeley, the ancestral Land of Hippie, be sent to the other country with a blessing of organic green tea and a cloud of herbal smoke? Will the 123,954 Alaskans who voted for President Obama be outfitted in sealskin parkas, placed on any remaining Arctic ice floes and shipped to Seattle? Does a Montana rancher who often votes Democratic (and sometimes tells his friends he’s done so) have to give up the cattle and move because he and his wife also like to go to New York every year to see some plays? What will happen to a Chicago truck driving, Fox News-watching lesbian feminist literature professor and her partner?
All of this sounds kind of nuts, right? And none of this includes matters such as dividing the current national debt, splitting the military, and deciding how to handle trade between the two new countries. If people think nothing gets done in just one Congress now, imagine talks about managing an oil spill that started in one nation (and thought to be the fault of engineers who hail from both countries) and besmirches beaches and livelihoods of both countries, along with an ocean that jumps national boundaries every few hundred miles or so.
Imposing their will on the populace
Of course, those who speak of taking their country back are, we hope, not talking about physically dividing the country. But it seems obvious they are talking about what they often say Communists do, namely imposing their will and ideas upon a whole populace. I guess it has not occurred to those who speak this way that not all of us who also live in our country want anything of the sort to happen.
Here’s one thought. Those who propagate such an idea may wish to exhale and heed the words of Ralph Waldo Emerson (even if some may persist in thinking his work is too elite, which it is not): “Cannot we let people be themselves and enjoy life in their own way? You are trying to make that man another you. One’s enough.”
And if one’s enough, a bunch is just too many, in one, two or any number of countries.
Mary Stanik, a writer and public-relations professional, lives in Minneapolis.