Monday, September 3, 2007

These divided states...

I'm getting tired of hearing about the things that divide us in this country. Red states, blue states, black and white, haves and have nots... To hear some people talk, the United States is a balkanized patchwork of warring clans. On a sunny Labor Day with the usual ethnic and socio-economic grab bag jostling for grill space out by the lake, it's a good time to take a skeptical look at that notion.
All these divisions exist, of course, but they're greatly overrated. Start with the red and blue state thing: this is a media-created artifact of the electoral college system which greatly oversimplifies the political and social map. You can run a red and blue analysis county-by-county or township-by-township in any given state and come up with a more accurate map, but even that is going to steamroller complexity: heck, I grew up with "red" and "blue" factions in my family. In the reddest of red states you will find wine-sipping, sandal-wearing Kucinich enthusiasts, and in the bluest of blue states you will find Limbaugh-loving, gun-rack-in-the-pickup meat eaters. And everything in between. So give the color thing a rest. The truth is that we all live in purple states.
As for black and white, far be it from me to proclaim an end to racial divisions, but I can't be as pessimistic as the Faces at the Bottom of the Well crowd. Control for social factors that are not inherently linked to the amount of melanin in a person's skin, and racial disparities start to flatten out. That is, if you get an education, delay childbearing until you're in a stable marriage with a decent income, and don't blow all your income on intoxicating substances, the odds are you are going to have a successful life, whatever color you are. If you can't do those things, you will probably be poor and miserable, and this goes for black, white or any other color. I have a brother who is a prosecutor in a mainly rural Indiana county, and his description of the local white underclass sounds just like what we hear about the urban black underclass: absent fathers, substance abuse, disdain for education. In other words, even our underclass culture crosses racial lines. That's good news, because all these things are correctable problems, and there's nothing inherently black or white about them.
Even the real divisions of language and culture tend to disappear over time, as children of immigrants assimilate. This is happening even with Hispanics, who have found more accomodation for their language and culture than any other group in U.S. history. Our culture is powerfully assimilative, and if we let it work it will embrace all comers.
None of the foregoing is to deny that there are real conflicts of interest to be worked out in our messy society. But that's what the political process is for, on all levels from your local PTA to the Congress of the United States. We have a strong civil society and a panoply of institutions to work out the conflicts, and if we don't panic about our divisions, they will get worked out.
The things that unite us are stronger and deeper than the things that divide us. So don't panic. Human life is inherently messy, but American society is as good as any on earth at dealing with that messiness. And personally, I think that unruliness is part of the fun.
Sam Reaves
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Michael Dymmoch said...

Beautifully put.

Gator said...

The debate of whether a .008 percent genetic different between populations defines a race seems to be less meaningful to me than the debate of what is our responsibly to a race of people that are discriminated against based on visual inherited differences and are those differences any more valid than the discriminations between groups such as sex, social class, formal education, BMI, or GMI (geek mass index:), etc.

The problem seems to stem from two perspectives; How do you want to identify yourself and how are you forced(or allowed) ,by others, to identify yourself. Most certainly there are many people who are not allowed to celebrate in the [fill in the group] pride event.

The measure of how much it hurts you based this inclusion or exclusion seems to be where we need some consideration. Does anyone have the right to create an identification, create entitlement only for that group, and than exclude others from that group even though it will cause hurt to others that are included or excluded?

What is the right of the individual to force exclusion of another from this categorization while creating preferential treatment for only those they allow to be categorized as such.

Government is still fully behind inherited entitlement based on generics alone and does it under the justification that there is inherit discrimination that must be compensated for or in some cases simply entitlement for no other reason than that .008% genetic difference.

Until this is no longer practiced there will continue to be people on the outside looking in and others that feel that being on the inside is an injustice through no fault and that its unfair.