When I was a kid there were certain things that we looked forward to each year. In the fall we would look for the latest car models and the beginning of the new TV season. In the spring we would look forward to the first day of the new baseball season and in the summer we would look forward to the last day of school and the opening of the pool and the first day of camp. These were things that we could depend on and the things that made our lives pleasant and predictable.
In Asheville, North Carolina, where I did a good part of my growing up, there were other things that we became accustomed to as well. We lived with segregated schools, lunch counters, movie theaters and city buses. We lived in a “separate but equal” society that sort of forgot to concentrate on the equal and instead emphasized the separate. We didn’t think much of this situation because it was simply a part of our reality. We were kids and tended to accept things as they were because we didn’t know that we could change them.
Things have changed since those years. New car models seem to come out at all different times of the year and I don’t know when one TV season ends and another one begins. Some school systems go year around and now the professional sports seasons seem to overlap all of the time. However, while I would like to think that our country has come far and made progress in the area of tolerance and race relations, that seems to be the one thing that has changed the least. I really didn’t think that was the case. When we elected Obama in 2008 I thought that we had finally moved beyond the hateful racism I had seen as a boy. But my wife continued to tell me that the negative reaction to his efforts to move and repair our country wasn’t just politics as usual, but racism. I didn’t want to believe her. I continued to argue that it was politics as usual, and the Republicans were just trying to reestablish their power. But I must admit that I was wrong. I believe that the red in red states stands for “red neck”. There is no getting around it.
As I listen to the rhetoric and see the symbols, including a devil on a History Channel series that looks like Obama, and a target displayed at the NRA convention that resembles Obama, I can’t deny that we are a nation divided. The divisions are related to race, and an understanding of “freedom and liberty” for all. The red states still believe in freedom and liberty for only some. Those “some” have to fit into their mold of the WASP nation and power structure of yesterday. While I sometimes miss the predictability of yesterday, I mourn for the dream of “freedom and liberty for all” that we seem to be losing in such a large part of our nation.