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Of red and blue

Paul Andersen

On Nov. 3, it looked like someone spilled red ink all over the U.S. The electoral map revealed what no electoral college could – that the bulk of the nation favors four more years of George W. Bush.It should come as no surprise that this left-leaning Democrat liberal columnist is in mourning. It’s not just that my candidate lost; it’s the powerful image of that electoral map bathed in red, except for a small fringe of blue.I live in that fringe, and that makes me blue … in more ways than one.I have never considered myself mainstream, but that map drove the point home. I haven’t felt so marginalized since Ronald Reagan trounced Jimmy Carter, and it comes with the same hollow despair.Given my advocacy for wild nature, a healthy environment, energy efficiency, voluntary simplicity, avoidance of commercial TV, material abstinence, and social and economic equality, the fringe of my ideology has shrunk against the widening sea of red.To varying degrees, my liberal peers are taking this very hard. Some are downright mortified and have threatened to leave the U.S. and move to a different country. One friend wept bitter tears and condemned the American voter for re-electing “that evil troglodyte!””To the victor goes a divided nation,” said Time Magazine on its election cover. “A national split over its place in the world, over its basic values, over its future direction. No matter who wins, the Uncivil War is likely to continue.”Maybe that’s what’s got me down – the Uncivil War. I’m blue because I’m tired of wars of any stripe – civil, uncivil, and especially pre-emptive colonial wars like the one in Iraq.Would I spite myself and leave the U.S. in protest of a regime I cannot support? It might feel good to vote with my feet, but that’s the ultimate capitulation. History tells me that change is inevitable, that epochs come and go, that this too shall pass.I can only reason that time is on my side and that the ideological pendulum will swing back toward the left. That ponderous pendulum needs a big push, so it’s up to us blues to give it a shove. But first we need to get the ground back under our feet.On the morning after the election, I sought escape in the serene canyons in my back yard up the Fryingpan; just the dog and me climbing through the redrock, feeling the bright sun, taking in the blue sky, sniffing air scented with sage and piñon.I climbed my favorite castle, perched on a flat slab of sandstone and surveyed the valley that stretched out below me. The distant ridge of Mount Sopris rose up white and snowy, and a cool breeze put a bite in the air. Time and space tempered my gloom.Gradually, I felt my defeatism change. The many layers of issues and talking points peeled away and I began to breathe free, my lungs expanding to the cool air. My resolve returned, and so did my appreciation for the fringe.My greatest heroes are from the fringe, the mavericks who have repeatedly challenged the mainstream. The blue fringe on the electoral map suddenly stood out as a defining contrast to the red, and it is that contrast that initiates change, and hopefully human progress.Perched on that high pinnacle, I laughed because I began to feel like Scarlet O’Hara. Standing amid the smoldering ruins of her beloved “Tara,” Scarlett’s stoic gaze beckoned impossible hope as she intoned to an apocalyptic sky: “Tomorrow … is another day!”Paul Andersen wonders how many tomorrows it will take. His column appears on Mondays.


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