Blue States and Puritans

This is a post from approximately five years ago (with some editing; I toned down the sarcasm and frustration a tad):

In my American and New England Studies program, there is a great deal of discussion (correctly so) regarding the attitudes of the Puritans towards the Native Americans. I have begun to recognize a pattern between how the Puritans thought of their unusual neighbors and how "Blue States" react to "Red States."

I should say first that I consider the whole Blue States/Red States Are Dire Enemies on the Brink of War theory to be silly in the extreme. It completely misses such factors as, for example, that 1 out of 5 people in Portland voted for Bush and 1 out of 3 in the State of Maine. Something like that anyway. The point being, sure Maine may be Blue but even the Blue-ist of the Blue aren't that Blue (and the same goes for Red). It also completely ignores the fact that most people, like myself, have family scattered all over amongst Red States and Blue States, and it also completely ignores the fact that people are just as willing to fight over sports (Red Sox versus Yankees) as over politics.

Nevertheless, Southern Maine is very, very Blue and I have been—well, amused isn't the right word—startled by the similarity between my liberal friends/acquaintances' reactions to the Red States and what I've been learning about Puritans and the Native Americans.

Here are the six similarities between the Puritan attitude towards Native Americans and the Blue State attitude towards the Red States:

1. Those people are uneducated hicks. They can't read (N.A.); they drive huge cars with guns on the back (Red States).
2. Those people have strange religious beliefs.
3. Those people are irrational and insist on mixing their strange religious beliefs up with our rational political systems.
4. Those people worship Satan (Bush is Satan; Red States vote for Bush, i.e. they worship Satan).
5. Those people are coming to get us.
6. Despite everything we've just said, we aren't intolerant because We're English! (or We live in a Blue State!)

Honestly, I'm not exaggerating. Or at least, not that much. Would that I were. And it highlights something that I've always believed--that people see their own viewpoints as ahistorical even when they are not. The Puritans thought their reactions to the Native Americans were as reasonable and intelligent and real as the Blue States do their reactions to the Red States. And you will never, ever be able to prove to them that they are intolerant.

Fifty years from now, maybe. But not today.

P.S. This does not mean that I consider the Red States free of similar attitudes. The difference is Red State people see themselves as morally superior but not necessarily culturally superior to the Blue States. But Blue States see themselves, like the Puritans, as morally and culturally superior. It's the difference between an Evangelical attitude and a Calvinist attitude. Red States think Blue States can be saved. Blue States do not return the favor.

© Katherine Woodbury

1 comment:

Henry said...

I feel pretty sure that everyone feels culturally superior to everyone else more or less. You pick your own movies, books, clothes, food, friends, pastimes, etc. Anyone who picks differently is obviously not as stylish as you. Or not as down-to-earth. Or not as gullible. Or not as smart. Or just plain depraved.

The difference between moral superiority and cultural superiority is pretty blurred anyway. Both ganster rap and christian rock define a moral attitude as well as a soundtrack.

If there is a difference between urban america and flyover country it is that flyover country knows what they're missing, since blue American controls the mass media. So probably some red American teenagers feel culturally inferior for this reason, but they either grow out of it or turn into Garrison Keillor.