1980. I was nineteen years old and Ronald Reagan was running for president. It was the first election in which I could vote. And I did. For the Gipper.
Things have changed over the past 37 years. I’m a lot grayer now and a little less into live music — and a lot more into my dad’s 1940s music. (Listened to the Andrews Sisters lately? They’re the cat’s pajamas!) And during those intervening years I passed out of my teenage Pat Robertson Speaks For Jesus, and BTW Jesus is a Republican phase and into and through my Copious Amounts of Tequila phase. More recently, I even muddled through my I Can’t Believe This New Prez Guy Is Such a %&*#! Tool post-election 2016 rage phase.
But before I escaped that last phase, my Four Steps of Trump:
Stage One: Reality. Reality is a monster. Reality is Bernie Sanders was cheated out of the nomination. Reality is he lost to a woman less liked than him. Reality is I had to choose between The Unlikeable One and It. Reality is It won.
Stage Two: Despair. You can’t change elections. You can’t put on a pink pussy hat and protest your way out of an election. You can’t avoid the news for a few days and wake-up to a different outcome. Nope, despair is knowing that the Titanic is going down and that at best Leonardo dies and you don’t. Goodbye, Leonardo.
Stage Three: Pessimism. Pessimism is sitting around all day in your pink pussy cap and briefs because there’s nothing you can do. Nothing except tweet and bitch and sometimes combine the two. But pessimism is useless. You can’t give up. You can never give up. So you move on.
Stage Four: Pragmatism. “Wait. Four stages and the fourth isn’t optimism? What about optimism?” you ask. “Weren’t you at any point optimistic?” My answer is no, I got hung up on pragmatism.
More About Pragmatism
I’ve been a political junkie since 1976. I was 15 in 1976 and had spent my youth listening to my father rant about Nixon. Then Jimmy Carter showed up. And he was honest, and friendly, and seemingly normal, and even a fellow Southerner. Then he got elected and walked down Pennsylvania Avenue. No limo just feet. I was a kid and still knew little about politics but had internalized my An Evening With John Denver album like it was oxygen, and I knew that being “real” was a big deal. And Jimmy was real. And I wept.
But a lot can change over 40 years — like me, for example. And America.
The two sides of the aisle disagreed back 1976, but they still talked and still worked things out. Hell, it was the GOP that pushed the crook Nixon out of office; and the Democratic Speaker of the House used to head over to the White House for happy hour with Reagan so the two could talk shop. The two sides don’t work together like that anymore, and there’s a lot of blame floating around: Conservatives blame Carter, Bill Clinton’s dick (and Hillary’s), and Obama; meanwhile, Liberals blame Reagan, Newt Gingrich, and Bush II aka Cheney. But it took more than politicians to do this. It took Rush Limbaugh, Fox News, talk radio, and the internet.
For four decades, the left and the right have increasingly treated each other like scorned ex-lovers. We now tweet (angrily). We Facebook (angrily). We comment at the bottom of web pages (angrily). But we never discuss rationally. Meaningful and necessary conversions have become impossible in this climate. And attempting to cross that line introduces toxins that can kill relationships we’ve had with people whom we’ve known for years, in some cases since we were kids, in some cases since birth. (Mommy?) We are intolerant. We have lost the ability to listen, to reason, to compromise. And we have lost our immunity to the sting of opposing ideas. Our anger is too deep.
Pushed by non-stop talk, news, and social media, we have pressed beyond diverse to divided, like every great nation before its fall. And that makes you wonder: How close are we, too, to killing fellow citizens because they differ politically from us? It sometimes feels like that sort of thing must surely have already begun and that it just isn’t being reported. The bitterness between us is that palatable. And I think we all sense that it’s not going to get better. It’s only going to get worse. So maybe it’s time for us to think outside the box.
I want you to consider your first reaction to what I write next. Register your second reaction, as well. Ready? Here we go: America should split into two countries, one conservative, one liberal.
That’s it. What was your first reaction? Your second? Let me tell you mine.
For a few years now I’ve wondered if secession is a solution. And each time I consider the prospect of a not-so-united States of America — a liberal America (let’s say in the northern half of the States) and a conservative America (down in good ol’ Dixie) — my first reaction is “That’s crazy!” But my second reaction is calm. My entire body relaxes. A smile appears on my face.
What if, as a liberal, I could live in a country where we based our laws on science, where religion was respected but not used as a battering ram, where the poor were educated and lifted up, and all of us were guaranteed healthcare? What if these stupid battles with the Tea Party could end and we could wake up each morning without that anger, without the fear of yet another Cheney-Bush or Trumpian-style presidency, without fracking polluting our drinking water or right wing evangelicals attempting to install their Christian Sharia law? What if we could agree to part company with those with whom we seem unable to work out our national problems? What if we could just be their friends again and not their countrymen?
You know, what if we got a divorce?
I’m not stating that this is the right solution, but I am asking if it might be: Is it time we go our separate ways? It is time Conservatives draft a constitution that says “Free guns for everyone,” while a few miles north Liberals write another constitution which guarantees “Free medication to all who need it.” What if our northern document read, “Love whomever you want,” while down south they were free to include in their document the most recent hate speech in vogue? What if we happily waved goodbye and started living our lives in peace?