A Letter to Red America


Dear Red America,

This is really hard to write.

How about we start with the good things? Yes, that's it; remembering the good times makes everything feel better.

Remember how thrilling it was when we first got together? We had something huge in common: big dreams of independence, founding a new republic, and we knew neither of us could do it solo. We needed each other. So we came together, hammered out some vows, and announced to the world that we were now in a relationship.

We knew from the beginning that we were not the same, that we had to make allowance for differences, find ways to balance the power in the relationship. Some of the compromises seemed minor at the time: we of the Blue states had more people, and in a simple democracy, should've had more power; but you made it clear from the beginning that you were not willing to give up some of your more peculiar practices, and if we wanted this relationship to work, we had to concede power to you.

That was hard on us. Deep down, we knew what you wanted was paradoxical, an affront to all the ideals we'd put into those vows. How could we in one moment declare ourselves a democracy and, in the next, allow ourselves to treat millions of human beings as property?

But we also knew that we needed you, desperately. So we made the compromise, built a glaring contradiction right into the heart of our relationship, let you keep your peculiar institution, even gave you more of a say in which individual would lead the republic.

And this, dear Red states, is where we have to confess something:those compromises that helped us hang together in the beginning weren't worth it.

You realized this long before we did. In fact, you were the first to ask for a divorce. We fought you over that, fought hard, beat you into submission with our superior numbers and technology. In the end, you made a lot of concessions. And now, after all those years of looking the other way, we forced you to acknowledge the paradox. We took away your beloved peculiarity, made you not just treat those you had enslaved as human beings, but permit some of them to have power of you as elected officials. To make sure you treated them appropriately, we occupied you with our Blue troops.

Oh, how you hated us for that. We were forcing this marriage on you now, requiring you to be democratic in ways you never wanted. But we hoped that, in time, you'd get used to these changes, learn to live with these millions of new citizens, accept them as neighbors rather than cattle.

But you never did. At every opportunity, you undermined our reforms, attacked our troops, terrorized the liberated former slaves. After ten years of trying to reconstruct our relationship with you in our own idealistic image, we pulled back and gave you your space: for the most part, it was back to the original compromise.

That was a hard pill for us to swallow, but if we hadn't, we couldn't have grown as much as we did. Together, we expanded, grew in wealth and power. We spread to the far side of our continent, acquiring wondrous new territory that was mind-bogglingly beautiful. Of course, there were already people living there, just as there had been in the first states we colonized.

And this is where the rot of those early compromises really took hold: if we could live with you Red staters enslaving people of one color, then why not subjugate and slaughter people of a different color who stood in the way of our expansion? Oh, we told ourselves we were civilizing them, evangelizing them with the gospel of Progress; but in truth, we were committing the same sins our colonizing parents made when they gave birth to us on these shores.

Looking back over the whole grand sweep of our history gather, it's horribly clear to us that our relationship was never conceived in liberty. Mortal sin was at the root of our union: genocide, slavery. We compounded those sins by pretending we could moderate them, pretty them up with ethics, treaties, and laws, but we always knew those were just delaying tactics. The time would come when we would have to pay for what we'd done.

Half a century ago, we realized we could no longer live with the contradictions. The people you'd continued to subjugate had had enough. They'd been denied the protections and rights of the Constitution for a hundred years after being ostensibly grandfathered in, and they were having no more of it. And we Blues agreed. Many of us came down into Red territory to help with the cause. We were able to bring it about without declaring war this time, but there were still troops involved.

You didn't like it, but we insisted. And we'd learned our lesson: some things ought not be compromised.

For fifty years, we've worked at it, holding true to the principles we all agreed to in those first days of our relationship: all people are equal, all people have rights, and the first task of government is protecting those rights. We know it's been hard on you Reds: you hated giving equal protection and representation to the descendants of the people you'd enslaved. You weren't happy about giving women control over their bodies, or letting them work alongside you as equals. You didn't like making amends to the first nations from whom we took this land, or to the citizens of Japanese descent we'd put in concentration camps during the Second World War. You especially didn't like extending rights to people whose sexual preferences differ from your own.

And what you hated most: deep down, you knew we were right. Because you signed on with us, at the beginning, to the principle that all are created equal. 

Which brings us to now, and this horrible thing you've done to our union.

You've used those rotten old compromises as a loophole, and taken total control of the nation. And we've let you do it, because from the beginning, our first principle, even more important to us than democracy, has been holding the country together. Oh, we don't like it: how you did it was sneaky, underhanded, dishonest, a perversion of democracy; but you followed the rules we agreed to from the beginning, so we've got no choice. Secession has never been part of our playbook.

And oh, how you're rubbing our faces in it. It feels like you're throwing it all back in our faces, marking up the Constitution with a Sharpie, crossing out the things you don't like, rewording them to mean the opposite of what we all agreed to, and demanding that we go along with it. 

And what can we do? We've worked so hard, for so long, to keep this country together, to make it a great nation, an example to the world. You've fought us every step of the way, but we never gave up on you, never let go of our dream that someday, we could become a paradise of freedom for everyone, and could do it together.

But maybe we can't. Maybe we were wrong when we forced you to stay with us. Maybe we should've let you go your own way as the Confederacy, clinging to slavery, and let it takes its natural course, the way it did in Haiti, where the slaves rose up and brutally slaughtered their former masters. 

But we didn't. And now, all these years later, we're paying the consequences of that decision to stay together, no matter what the cost. 

And oh, that cost. We're in for some very expensive years.

Which is why, dear Red America, we're finally beginning to question the union.

You're probably not taking us seriously. You think you can have your raunchy frat party in Washington, go back to treating women, immigrants, people of color, gay and trans people, as objects rather than people, and get away with it.

You're wrong. We haven't fought this long and this hard to make this country truly great for us to just surrender to the first fascist to take office. We'll keep fighting you, insisting that equal means equal, that no, you don't get to be more equal than anyone else.

And just in case you think you can roll back the Constitution all by yourselves, take a look at the map at the top of the page, and ask yourself how much of a nation you'd be without us.

One more thing, Red America, and you really need to pay attention: some of us, especially here on the West Coast, have had enough of you, and want a divorce.

Remember how horrible things got when you were the ones wanting out of the union? Remember how much blood was spilled over it? Do you really want to go there again?

Think about it. Please.

In love and sadness,

Blue America


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