A recent piece on the CBS Marketwatch website contained this interesting, if not surprising nugget: "[In 2004] 24% of workers in the South overheard insults related to sexual orientation compared with 14% in the Northeast, 19% in the North Central region and 20% in the West." Tom McKinnon, executive consultant with Novations/J. Howard & Associates, who conducted the survey, had this to say: "One always has to be careful about generalizations, but it certainly looks like the Northeast is more comfortable with the issue of sexual orientation, and the South is least comfortable with it, at least as reflected in slurs and comments about sexual orientation."
Many in the punditocracy believe that these types of red vs blue generalizations are mostly hyperbole. They see the things that Americans have in common, like Fourth of July barbeques, as proof that the divide between the urbanite and the exurbanite, the Bush voter and the Kerry voter, is not as great as some make it out to be.
Some of the pundits who think this way are simply contrarians, others lament the prospect of a divided America because they feel a genuine patriotism. After all, the latter say, we're the country that won two World Wars and outlasted the social upheaval of the 60s; surely we can solve our quibbling internal disagreements.
To these "experts" Americans are mostly apolitical. The fact that Americans care more about their children's soccer game than about global warming reassures them. But look around you. As the Alan Jackson song goes, most Americans don't know Iraq from Iran. That didn't stop Alan Jackson fans from supporting a leader who unleashed a nightmarish war in the Middle East. We shouldn't ever be reassured by American's collective apathy.
It is also true that there are Bush lovers in Boston and diehard liberals in Tulsa. So what? There are Nazis in Paris and Christians in Kabul, too.
No, the deniers of the divide are engaged in wishful thinking. Roe is the tenuous bridge over a fault line in our culture. Once the bridge is taken away, Northerner and Southerner, capitalist and Christian conservative, libertarian and neocon, metrosexual and Nascar dad, will be fighting right on top of that fault line, and earthquakes will result.