Red state to blue state
By Raymond Freeman 11/14/2013
You’ve moved to Ventura County for a better life. You’re from the South. Everyone warned you against it. Your family said California was “full of liberals.” Your pastor hoped you wouldn’t “get sucked in by gays.” Your co-workers said the unions had “destroyed everything.”
But your town was dead. You were stuck in virtual slavery. Mom-and-pop businesses had been killed by Walmart 15 years ago. Factories had been closed by profiteers like Mitt Romney and the jobs moved to China. There were no decent jobs unless you worked for the state, the post office, or had a management position at the one remaining factory. Almost all jobs paid minimum wage. The well-paid factory jobs enabling single-income households up to 1975 were long gone. Mothers went out to work. Education was a joke. Poverty, boarded-up properties and teen pregnancy were standard. Unmarried mothers were abused. Abortion wasn’t an option since bigots had stamped it out. Anyway, nobody had health insurance.
Most of the jobs created in the last 15 years seemed to be those serving rich people, almost like Charles Dickens’ times. Several huge mail-order warehouses had opened. Working in those places was pure slavery. They were iceboxes in winter, furnaces in summer, with relentless quotas to fill. Everyone had to work “off the clock” without pay. Attorneys refused to take those cases, being strung along forever. There were no unions.
When you asked what went wrong, nobody blamed Republicans. Somehow it was the fault of “liberals,” unions, taxes, immigrants, “regulations” and the government. Nobody mentioned corporate lobbyists or the companies that had moved jobs to China. These got tax breaks for destroying America’s industrial backbone! How insane is that?
You and your friends voted Republican. Nobody knew why. You were told that Democrats supported the “illegals” who were stealing jobs, were snobs who drove Volvos and ate brie, and wanted to take away your guns. Very soon they’d get the country looking like the old Soviet Union. Listening to AM radio, you became afraid: afraid of everything, afraid of everyone, afraid that liberals were “taking your freedoms away” and afraid that government agents would come and take your gun and your truck away. Voting Republican would somehow stop all that.
The Army was the only way out of town for most people. Your town had many young disabled veterans. Your military friends came back from Iraq suffering from PTSD. One killed himself. All were unemployed. You began to wonder if the Iraq and Afghanistan wars were “worth it,” though someone on the radio said they’d been a “noble sacrifice.”
But you’d been able to save money secretly, get an interview locally, and get out. You had the option of Texas, but didn’t like the crime, industrial explosions, industrial smog, pollution and “bling” flaunted in your face. The whole state seemed full of bigots. They attacked Wendy Davis and her stand on a woman’s right to make her own decisions. You think people should make their own personal decisions.
Your new life in a blue state has been a pleasant surprise. Everyone you were supposed to be afraid of isn’t a threat at all. For the first time you’re working with blacks and gays. They’re cheerful, work hard, helped you to settle in, and treat you well. Your apartment is smaller than it was at home, but that’s a small price to pay. Cities are better planned.
Above all, that grinding poverty isn’t everywhere. Certainly, there’s poverty. Certainly, there’s unemployment. But it’s like being in America again compared to the South. What’s back home is actually worse than Soviet Russia, where at least everyone had a job and free healthcare. One day at lunch the subject of politics came up. You said nothing. But then it struck you like an arrow through the brain — you had more in common with the people the GOP hates than the GOP itself.
And you asked yourself — if Republican policies are so great, why are red states so poor? Why don’t local Republicans just move to one, if California’s so terrible?
Recently, you’ve begun to resent the red states. They’re subsidized by the blue states. Poor people in the red states have full-time jobs with immensely profitable companies, but still live in poverty and need welfare. Your taxes pay for their welfare. Why don’t they join unions and get better pay? Are they brainwashed, stupid, chicken or what? This made you think about Democrats. Their policies are aimed at making everyone better off, not just the lucky few at the top.
There’s another snag. When you go home to your red state for Thanksgiving and Christmas, you’re afraid you might open your mouth too much at the dinner table. Some of those family gatherings can get pretty interesting. We’ll soon see how well you do.