Blue States Press
Blue states, Canada share values, While red states reject tolerance
By Bill Gallagher
I've seen the future, baby: it is murder." -- Leonard Cohen, Canadian singer and poet.
DETROIT -- The day after the election was cold, gloomy and bleak, but the nation's political atmosphere looked even worse. It was the day after the Day of the Dead -- literally. Nov. 2 is All Souls Day in the Catholic tradition, the day when we have masses, pray for and remember the dead. But this was not the time to fret about the departed. America's political soul was in the grip of George W. Bush and the wacky religious right. Protecting the nation from their radical agenda requires our urgent prayers.
The first seven people I spoke with on Black Wednesday said -- separately and independently -- they want to go to Canada. Since the number seven has such profound religious significance -- liberals can read the book of Revelation, too -- and since Bush and his "Rapture" base see the war in Iraq as a way to rid Babylon of the infidels, I thought I should pay attention to the prophetic words of the seven and examine the Canadian connection more carefully.
The geopolitics of the election is bloody obvious. The people in the Red States -- in the south and west -- embody and embrace "Christian" virtue and "moral values," and the rest of us -- in the nation's north and on the west coast -- provide a haven for Beelzebub and all evil ideas and creatures great and small.
Karl Rove, Bush's minister to the religious right, succeeded in using fear, division, ignorance and intolerance to convince 59 million Americans that the president would protect them from evil and godless liberals and keep our "Christian" soldiers on the march all over the world.
It worked because, in part, the aura of Sept. 11 still lingers and Bush was more than willing to exploit fear for political gain. More importantly, it worked because Rove and his allies on the religious right -- Evangelicals and Catholics alike -- were able to so effectively mobilize anti-gay sentiment and make that a more decisive issue than the mess in Iraq and Bush's horrible record on the economy.
Region and religion are replacing race as America's great political dividing line and the Republicans were delighted to use video of men kissing in TV spots in key states to inflame anti-gay voters, especially in the 11 states where same-sex couple legal status issues were on the ballot.
Forget about the endless bloodshed in Iraq, the continuing threat of al-Qaeda and the record Bush deficits and reckless Republican spending -- the most important issue in our nation is what your consenting gay neighbors do privately and how that corrupts our society.
The "moral values" crowd is energized to smash the wall of separation between church and state and use government to advance their creed and impose their will on all of us.
The three persons of their holy trinity of virtue and values are Bill Bennett, Rush Limbaugh and Bill O'Reilly -- an obsessive gambler, a dope fiend and a barbaric sexual predator, respectively. But that's OK. They're not gay.
I have seen the future and what the United Christian Kingdom of Bush (UCKB) looks like, and it's frightening. I spent three years in the early '80s working in Oklahoma, the buckle on the Bible Belt, as the locals are fond of calling the place.
Yes, there are some very nice, friendly, decent people there -- even a few brave progressives like Frosty Troy, the longtime editor of the Oklahoma Observer, a liberal weekly that dares to print the truth and expose the hypocrisy of the right-wing religious fanatics who dominate the state.
Everywhere you turned in Oklahoma you'd find "in your face" Christians. One of my favorites was the Jesus Saves Pawn Shop. It was common to see stores that conspicuously displayed signs proclaiming a "Christian Business." People would identify their ethnicity as "Christian."
When my daughter Amy was in the fifth grade, she was the only student in her class who had ever heard of the Holocaust, but they all knew who Oral Roberts was.
In Oklahoma, where "moral values" come "sweepin' down the plain," the stench of hatred, intolerance and corruption always hung in the air. It is the perfect prototype for the UCKB.
Oklahoma politicians claimed they were doing the "Lord's work" as they ran state institutions for juveniles and the mentally disabled as patronage factories -- providing jobs for family and friends -- where children were beaten, tortured and even murdered.
The right-wing preachers never said anything about those horrible abuses and crimes, but they would rail from the pulpits about the evil of selling "liquor by the drink," and Rev. Bailey Smith, one-time head of the Southern Baptist Conference, would proclaim, "God does not answer the prayers of Jews."
In Oklahoma, as in George W. Bush's Texas, the death penalty is worshiped and the state's new senator, Tom Coburn, wants the death penalty for doctors who perform abortions. Coburn fears the "gay agenda" is ruining the nation and says girls shouldn't be allowed in bathrooms together because "rampant lesbianism" is plaguing Oklahoma high schools.
The anti-gay crusade was critical in Bush's election and will be a theme the religious right will continue to use to divide people and gain political advantage. Fostering hatred of minorities to control power is a hallmark of totalitarian regimes, and the Red States, as well as some Blue, are flush with this tactic.
I've known many regular churchgoers on the religious right claiming to embrace "family values" as they spew homophobic hate and intolerance, praise war and advocate killing all Muslims in the Middle East.
Then I have gay friends -- infrequent churchgoers -- who shower people with random acts of generosity and kindness, never utter a hateful word and take seriously the commandment to "love thy neighbor."
Bush's stated opposition to abortion appealed to many "moral values" voters, but mark my words, he will make no effort to recriminalize abortion, and his policies have forced more women into poverty and thus driven abortion rates higher.
Many of the 55 million Americans who voted for John Kerry wonder what kind of nation Bush will shape with his "mandate," and what damage he can do to the nation. That's why so many are looking to Canada for the hope of tolerance and civility on our continent.
Within hours of Bush's smirking victory speech, a record-smashing 115,000 Americans visited Canada's immigration Web site, six times more than usual. While it's doubtful many will actually move to Canada, the incident underscores just how alienated and distraught people are about American politics and the future.
I have often expressed my fondness for Canadian people and things Canadian. I do feel far more comfortable and at home in many areas of Canada than I do in many parts of the United States.
I find the air in Houston filthy and stifling, just like the political climate there. Listening to people brag loudly in those horrible Texas twangs is insufferable. In Toronto, I can breathe and the people speak English.
Sure, some of my feelings are based on social prejudice, but there are also historic, economic and political links that bind people in the Blue States more with Canada than with the UCKB.
In New England we find the seeds of our democratic traditions, Yankee realism, common sense and fiscal sanity. Roger Williams founded Rhode Island as a haven for those fleeing religious persecution. In New York, our great diversity instilled a sense of tolerance and inclusion. The peaceful Quakers founded Pennsylvania, and Maryland was established as a colony for Catholics fleeing persecution.
The Upper Midwest gave rise to Lincoln's ( as opposed to Bush's) Republican Party and the progressive movement flourished there and inspired great reforms. The people in the Blue States championed public education, libraries, universities and hospitals, trade unions, child labor laws, public transportation, care for the mentally ill, laws protecting minorities and the disabled, open government, women's suffrage, the abolition of slavery and, God bless them, the repeal of Prohibition.
California is leading the nation in the quest for cleaner air standards and requiring more fuel-efficient cars, in spite of the opposition of George W. Bush's corporate sponsors in the auto and oil industries.
The environmental movement thrives and makes important strides in Oregon and Washington state, where people are proud to say they're tree-huggers as they fight urban sprawl and the spread of Bush's Wal-Mart Nation.
The geopolitics of the election is intriguing and shows the Blue States have, in many respects, more common ground politically with Canada than they have with the Red States within the UCKB.
I'm not in any way suggesting secession -- that's treason -- although Bush and his redneck legions cling with rebel arrogance to that symbol of treason and racial oppression, the Confederate flag.
I do, however, believe the Blue States can look to Canada for an informal alliance based on shared political values, trade and the natural relationship flowing from contiguous territory.
Canada is far from a perfect society, but it does show us health care for every citizen can work and people can actually afford the prescription drugs they need. You can have laws controlling guns without bothering hunters and collectors. You can have politically informed and sophisticated citizens who engage in reasonable discourse, a media that routinely challenges government claims and a society that is tolerant and respects diversity.
But what can the people in Blue States offer the Canadians, besides our products and common political beliefs? Brains!
The top 16 states in the nation with the highest average IQs all voted blue, based on measurements in the book "IQ and the Wealth of Nations" by Richard Lynn and Tatu Vanhanen. All 19 Blue States are in the Top 25 and, of course, the bottom 25 IQ states are all red. This is not meant to be smug, but just to point out that, the lower the IQ, the more appealing George W. Bush is and vice versa.
If people in the Red States could vote on the issue, my guess is that they would overwhelmingly support expelling the Blue States and their moral decadence from the union. The Reds despise Washington, D.C., so we could keep it and they could move their capital to Lubbock, Texas.
My favorite cities in North America are New York, Boston, San Francisco, Chicago, Toronto and Montreal -- places people from the religious right despise. We would have the symbols and substance of their hatred -- everything from Broadway, with all those wonderfully talented gay people, to Montreal, where they speak French. Vive la difference!
Rev. Karl Rove could make it a "moral crusade" and convince his faithful that expelling the Blue States is a "moral issue" and God's will, so King George would never again have to deal with the liberal riffraff.
We would survive the exile and pray for the liberation of the UCKB, toasting them by cracking open bottles of that superb Canadian beer so aptly named Labatt Blue.
Bill Gallagher, a Peabody Award winner, is a former Niagara Falls city councilman who now covers Detroit