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Electoral hues and shades

Aspen Times writer

Dear Editor:I too am driven to weeping and raging over that new icon of our nation, the Red vs. Blue map that the networks used to keep electoral score on election night. Not because it’s so red but because it’s so untruthful. As far as it goes, it is completely accurate. It displays, in its simple TV way, which states gave their electoral votes to the Republican Party and which ones to the Democrats. It shows regional voting patterns that wouldn’t be so obvious on a tally sheet. And that is all.Throughout the campaign, the leading media mantra was, “We’re a nation divided, we’re a nation divided,” and the livid contrast between those two primary colors seems to bear that out – the conservative heartland vs. the liberal coasts, with the heartland winning big time. Not so fast. The map shows only the final electoral result, not how each of us voted. If the map showed actual voting by state – or even better, by precinct – our country would appear in shifting shades and densities of purple, with a red shift so slight that only a well-trained eye could see it.The most dramatic effect of this simplistic map of our national character lies in its geographic distortion. There are more people in the New York metro area than in all the Rocky Mountain states combined; on the map New York City disappears into the New Jersey and Connecticut border lines while the big blocky mountain states cut a wide swath all the way from Canada to Mexico. What that great red blob in the middle of the map represents is acres, not people. Unfortunately, I’m not sure that our president is going to bother with such a minor detail. For him (and a lot of other people) that big red country with a liberal blue fringe is the perfect picture of his personal mandate.We all tend to see what we’re looking for; if our minds find it simpler and more comfortable to see a nation divided, the supporting numbers and images are there to be found. But if we can let ourselves be colorblind for a moment, we might notice that Pennsylvania and Ohio do still have a common border, that in fact our country does still stretch, unbroken, from sea to shining sea. We breathe the same air, we are warmed by the same sun. The earth that supports our feet and feeds our mouths is still the one we inherited from our ancestors and must yet bequeath to our children.The government we elect is not a referendum on who’s right and who’s wrong, who’s weak and who’s strong, but part of an ongoing – if often discordant – conversation about how we all intend to live together in this common space. Our country is not so easily divided as its map, and if we can learn to find peace in that underlying unity then that conversation will have a happy outcome.Richard ComptonCarbondale


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