Blue-state reds, red-state blues

So, I've been in New York the past weekend. I've had a really great time, but I have to say I am struck as always by the immense wealth here and by the effort, and money, that needs to be put into one's fashion statements so as not to stick out as a hopeless hick. Granted, I think things have changed a little now that many of my friends here are more settled in their lives. It used to be that every time I came there was some new restaurant that was THE place to be, and everybody knew it, whether they knew each other or not; it was like they spoke this secret New York insider language, and when I met up with one set of friends and introduced them to another they all knew which restaurant or bar we HAD to go to. And by the time I came back three months later it would have changed. I could never keep up. Well, so I'm struck again by our celebrity-obsessed and fashion-obsessed culture, and newly struck by some of the childishness I see in the papers as certain New Yorkers bemoan the fact that the rest of the country is so different from them, and how can they be so stupid, and here look at the average IQs and how the higher ones line up with the blue states, etc. And I'm hearing that publishers are loving the red-state/blue-state split because they can make money off it. And I think back to my earlier post about how the split (just like extremes of gender difference also pushed by the media) is all about firing up our consumer impulses. And somehow this all seems to reduce to the triviality of style, so we have made our consumer choice, and it's for Kerry, and it's superior to those unfashionable idiots who chose Bush.

Well, of course, I think in all kinds of ways we would have been dramatically better off with Kerry in office than Bush, but I can't help thinking that the moral values crowd have a point (which appears, alas, in rather twisted form) about problems with our celebrity/consumer culture. What if those of us blue-staters who have a similar critique could find a way to communicate it more broadly? Might we make some inroads?

If you listen to Alan Keyes's rhetoric (did you know he was a Straussian? I read this in Anne Norton's great new book, Leo Strauss and the Politics of American Empire), it's all about selfishness. People are selfish, and so they want the state to bless their same-sex union, they want to choose when to have children, etc. They don't want to limit themselves to the cards God dealt them. They don't want to practice self-control.

They want, if they're allergic to cats, to have a genetically engineered cat bred for them that they can pay thousands of dollars for with their blue-state salary.

What if we could disconnect the notion of "selfishness" from the intensely personal issues like abortion and marriage, and recast it as a problem of consumer culture? Where would we, blue-staters, actually want to draw the line between things that anyone should be able to have, and luxuries we agree are obscene? (What if things anyone should be able to have included a really fantastic public education, health care, safety in their own homes -- etc.?)


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