Point: red state politics, blue state tastes

I was born in Manhattan and raised in Hollywood. Those two facts, plus my Catholic religion, my severely—mixed—but—primarily—Francophone ethnicity, my parents' theatrical background, my father's love of books and history, and the odd circumstances of the 1960s have, together, produced my predicament ——— I call it 'Red—Blue Syndrome.'

Here are its basic symptoms: on the one hand, my politics are firmly fixed on the right. So far as I am concerned, abortion is murder, gay marriage is an exercise in insanity, government supervision of my every move is dictatorship, and taxes are just too bloody high. Gun control is simply a way of disarming the citizenry, and the declining birth—rate will destroy social security and beggar us all. So too, on a more a—political plane, I prefer the Tridentine Mass to the new one, and wish women wore hats to church. So ——— perhaps I should move to Kansas or Texas?

By no means! Because while my convictions might land me in the rural Midwest or South, my aesthetic tastes keep me firmly bound to the liberal enclaves of the West Coast and the North—East. Where in Odessa, Texas or Manhattan, Kansas would I find the Thai restaurants, Korean barbecues or Shabu—Shabu houses I crave? The theater, and opera? The huge libraries and architecture that feed my soul?

Even my religious needs are better served in cities than in the country: most large cities (save Los Angeles) have at least one 'liturgical parish,' where Tridentine Masses are offered, or at least Gregorian Chant, Polyphony, and/or orchestral Masses are served up. Even in the L.A. area, I can still take in a weekly Tridentine Mass, or else a liturgy from one of the innumerable Eastern Rites established here (Coptic, Melkite, Maronite, Ukrainian, Ruthenian, and many, many more). In the great Red Zone, you are stuck with whatever the local priest gives you, and however conservative the feelings of the communicants may be, they will have to make do, often enough, with clown Masses and altar girls.

Blue for the Food
Nor do they have Chinese bakeries or Jewish delis. As you might have guessed, food is important to me, and the dizzying varieties of ethnic fare, as well as haute cuisine, available in areas carried by Kerry are just what I need. No offence against tater tots and chicken—fried steak (I do like them from time to time, actually, especially with cream gravy), but a steady diet of this stuff would drive me mad. Having attended college in Roswell, New Mexico for two years, I know whereof I speak ——— and in those far—off days, they didn't even have a UFO museum there!

But it really is more than just food. Where else could I take in a Japanese tea ceremony or a Russian festival? If you have such a thing out in the country, it is because that is the single ethnic group that settled the town, and such customs are generally indulged in one or twice a year; the rest of the time it is strictly 'hee—haw' season. Moreover, I like crowds, and you just don't get those out in the sticks.

The conversations are generally better in the cities (I say generally; our reputation for stupidity and shallowness out here in SoCal is not entirely unjustified, even if I could not completely endorse H.L. Mencken's claim that there are more morons here than anyplace else on Earth). Certainly, in New York, Boston, and San Francisco, if you are having a discussion in a boite over some arcane topic, listeners are likely to jump in with some opinion which ——— even if completely wrong ——— is based upon reading or experience. This does not often happen as often in Mishawaka.

Then there is the elegance question: in the three cities named, as well as New Orleans and elsewhere, it is still possible to go to formal balls in grand hotels. In how many red counties does one receive an invitation bearing the magic phrase, 'white—tie and decorations?' So too with old restaurants and private clubs. Could I honestly be expected to trade the dear old Players' Club in New York, or the Algonquin Club in Boston, for Midland, Texas's Petroleum Club? I think not! For that matter, I relish the mere existence of Boston's Somerset, Pasadena's Valley Hunt, and New York's Knickerbocker Clubs —— for all that I know I will NEVER be invited to those hallowed spots. Their mere survival contributes to the tone of their respective cities.

Red Wine on the Floor
At the opposite end of the spectrum, I love Bohemia as well. Where in Paducah will you find the company of writers, actors, and intellectuals, pseudo or otherwise? Long chats about the craft they ply, regardless of whether or not they are any good at it, often conducted on the floor of someone's run—down apartment and washed down with plenty of cheap red are simply not to be savored in rural areas.

Of course, in all of these places, one will hear political and religious opinions diametrically opposed to one's own, and often with the stupidest imaginable reasoning. But even there, one is able to feel a wonderful sense of superiority, reinforced by the lack of earnestness on the part of one's opponent, which would lead to guilt if the same ideas were proposed in Lincoln, Nebraska. You don't feel bad snickering at the half—baked arguments of a has—been producer; you feel like a wretch doing the same for a hard—working farmer in Sauk Centre, Minnesota.

So for all these, and many more reasons, I am firmly anchored to urban realms, despite the anti—smoking laws, pornographic ads, and just plain insane civic governments to be encountered there. Yet I am acutely aware that I must self—censor my conversation or else endure uncomfortable silences when I bring up an unpleasant truth. How do I cope with this?

I find that field trips to the deepest center of the blue—state city in question, to where it started, help a lot. When I go, for example, to the statue of King Charles III in Los Angeles' Old Plaza, to Bowling Green in New York,  or to the Old State House in Boston, I am reminded that my views on things both Church and State were, to a great degree, shared by the founders or earliest leaders of these towns. Whatever has happened since, there is a commonality there that echoes down the centuries. At moments like these, I do not feel like a red state exile in blue state Babylon; rather, I feel like the rightful inheritor of a lost estate. All my annoyances fade for the nonce, and I leave refreshed and ready for the ideological battles that lie in wait at the next cocktail party.

[A counterpoint article is available here.]

Charles A. Coulombe's most recent books are 'Rum: The Epic Story of the Drink that Conquered the World' and 'Vicars of Christ: A History of the Popes.'  He is currently working on a biography of four—time Olympic—gold—medal winner Pat McCormick.  In 2004, Mr. Coulombe was named a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Sylvester by Pope John—Paul II.

I was born in Manhattan and raised in Hollywood. Those two facts, plus my Catholic religion, my severely—mixed—but—primarily—Francophone ethnicity, my parents' theatrical background, my father's love of books and history, and the odd circumstances of the 1960s have, together, produced my predicament ——— I call it 'Red—Blue Syndrome.'

Here are its basic symptoms: on the one hand, my politics are firmly fixed on the right. So far as I am concerned, abortion is murder, gay marriage is an exercise in insanity, government supervision of my every move is dictatorship, and taxes are just too bloody high. Gun control is simply a way of disarming the citizenry, and the declining birth—rate will destroy social security and beggar us all. So too, on a more a—political plane, I prefer the Tridentine Mass to the new one, and wish women wore hats to church. So ——— perhaps I should move to Kansas or Texas?

By no means! Because while my convictions might land me in the rural Midwest or South, my aesthetic tastes keep me firmly bound to the liberal enclaves of the West Coast and the North—East. Where in Odessa, Texas or Manhattan, Kansas would I find the Thai restaurants, Korean barbecues or Shabu—Shabu houses I crave? The theater, and opera? The huge libraries and architecture that feed my soul?

Even my religious needs are better served in cities than in the country: most large cities (save Los Angeles) have at least one 'liturgical parish,' where Tridentine Masses are offered, or at least Gregorian Chant, Polyphony, and/or orchestral Masses are served up. Even in the L.A. area, I can still take in a weekly Tridentine Mass, or else a liturgy from one of the innumerable Eastern Rites established here (Coptic, Melkite, Maronite, Ukrainian, Ruthenian, and many, many more). In the great Red Zone, you are stuck with whatever the local priest gives you, and however conservative the feelings of the communicants may be, they will have to make do, often enough, with clown Masses and altar girls.

Blue for the Food
Nor do they have Chinese bakeries or Jewish delis. As you might have guessed, food is important to me, and the dizzying varieties of ethnic fare, as well as haute cuisine, available in areas carried by Kerry are just what I need. No offence against tater tots and chicken—fried steak (I do like them from time to time, actually, especially with cream gravy), but a steady diet of this stuff would drive me mad. Having attended college in Roswell, New Mexico for two years, I know whereof I speak ——— and in those far—off days, they didn't even have a UFO museum there!

But it really is more than just food. Where else could I take in a Japanese tea ceremony or a Russian festival? If you have such a thing out in the country, it is because that is the single ethnic group that settled the town, and such customs are generally indulged in one or twice a year; the rest of the time it is strictly 'hee—haw' season. Moreover, I like crowds, and you just don't get those out in the sticks.

The conversations are generally better in the cities (I say generally; our reputation for stupidity and shallowness out here in SoCal is not entirely unjustified, even if I could not completely endorse H.L. Mencken's claim that there are more morons here than anyplace else on Earth). Certainly, in New York, Boston, and San Francisco, if you are having a discussion in a boite over some arcane topic, listeners are likely to jump in with some opinion which ——— even if completely wrong ——— is based upon reading or experience. This does not often happen as often in Mishawaka.

Then there is the elegance question: in the three cities named, as well as New Orleans and elsewhere, it is still possible to go to formal balls in grand hotels. In how many red counties does one receive an invitation bearing the magic phrase, 'white—tie and decorations?' So too with old restaurants and private clubs. Could I honestly be expected to trade the dear old Players' Club in New York, or the Algonquin Club in Boston, for Midland, Texas's Petroleum Club? I think not! For that matter, I relish the mere existence of Boston's Somerset, Pasadena's Valley Hunt, and New York's Knickerbocker Clubs —— for all that I know I will NEVER be invited to those hallowed spots. Their mere survival contributes to the tone of their respective cities.

Red Wine on the Floor
At the opposite end of the spectrum, I love Bohemia as well. Where in Paducah will you find the company of writers, actors, and intellectuals, pseudo or otherwise? Long chats about the craft they ply, regardless of whether or not they are any good at it, often conducted on the floor of someone's run—down apartment and washed down with plenty of cheap red are simply not to be savored in rural areas.

Of course, in all of these places, one will hear political and religious opinions diametrically opposed to one's own, and often with the stupidest imaginable reasoning. But even there, one is able to feel a wonderful sense of superiority, reinforced by the lack of earnestness on the part of one's opponent, which would lead to guilt if the same ideas were proposed in Lincoln, Nebraska. You don't feel bad snickering at the half—baked arguments of a has—been producer; you feel like a wretch doing the same for a hard—working farmer in Sauk Centre, Minnesota.

So for all these, and many more reasons, I am firmly anchored to urban realms, despite the anti—smoking laws, pornographic ads, and just plain insane civic governments to be encountered there. Yet I am acutely aware that I must self—censor my conversation or else endure uncomfortable silences when I bring up an unpleasant truth. How do I cope with this?

I find that field trips to the deepest center of the blue—state city in question, to where it started, help a lot. When I go, for example, to the statue of King Charles III in Los Angeles' Old Plaza, to Bowling Green in New York,  or to the Old State House in Boston, I am reminded that my views on things both Church and State were, to a great degree, shared by the founders or earliest leaders of these towns. Whatever has happened since, there is a commonality there that echoes down the centuries. At moments like these, I do not feel like a red state exile in blue state Babylon; rather, I feel like the rightful inheritor of a lost estate. All my annoyances fade for the nonce, and I leave refreshed and ready for the ideological battles that lie in wait at the next cocktail party.

[A counterpoint article is available here.]

Charles A. Coulombe's most recent books are 'Rum: The Epic Story of the Drink that Conquered the World' and 'Vicars of Christ: A History of the Popes.'  He is currently working on a biography of four—time Olympic—gold—medal winner Pat McCormick.  In 2004, Mr. Coulombe was named a Knight Commander of the Order of St. Sylvester by Pope John—Paul II.