A mixture of red, white and blue can be ugly

Ed Raymond

These colors can produce beautiful flags or ugly bruises  

As a football player playing guard in the middle of the line, I estimated at the end of eight years of high school and college I had been hit approximately 14,000 times in 80 games alone, not counting scrimmages and practices.

So, the beautiful red, white and blue colors on the flag presented before the game mixed into some ugly bruises during and after the game. I had mixed purple, blue, black, red and yellow bruises on various parts of my anatomy – but never missed a game because of injury.

I thought of this juxtaposition looking at a map of the Divided States where Republican states are red, Democratic states are blue, and swing states like Michigan and Pennsylvania are purple. And there are a lot of mixed colors and bruises in some states representing urban and rural populations centers.

In the last week of November, Governor Gavin Newsom of California, a state that is usually the pacesetter for the country racing with new ideas to try, debated Governor Ron DeSantis of Florida, a state where old people choose to die because of orange groves and eternal summer. They made disgraceful faces and nervous moves as they listened and yelled at each other. They were representing a blue state and a red state, one on the left coast and one on the right coast separated by a huge canyon and flyover country between them. Were they from the same country?

The differences were so profound, they argued and spit at each other like they were from fundamentally different nations. We already had wars in the Middle East between Jews and Arabs, between ideologies and religions, and crusaders and martyrs.

Cynicism seems to be the ideology of the Divided States of America in the 21st century, the belief that people on the other side of the fence are morally bankrupt and behave treacherously toward each other to absolutely maximize self-interest.

When thinking in terms of empires, it has happened dangerously quick. Just 60 years ago, 77% of Americans trusted their government “to do what is right just about most of the time.” Today, Americans have suffered a Niagara to 15% – and that drop now applies to most institutions, whether public or private.  

The world has a surplus of angry autocrats and a shortage of Socratic democrats Autocrats Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini and Pol Pot killed millions in modern times. Autocrat Pinochet in Argentina killed thousands in prisons and hundreds by “disappearing” them out of helicopters flying over the ocean at 5,000 feet. Autocrat Putin of Russia killed thousands in Georgia, Chechnya and Ukraine, and hundreds of protesters with poisons in foreign countries, bullets near the Kremlin, and with climates in the Gulag Archipelago ending in Siberia.

Jews and Palestinians have had 75 years to establish a nation – or two – in old Palestine as dictated by the World War II settlement made by the United Nations in 1948. The problem is, both Jews and Muslims have been represented by autocrats since the deal. In 2023, Autocrats Bebe Netanyahu of Israel and Ismail Haniyeh of Hamas have killed thousands to blow up the two-state solution approved by the United Nations as a solution to homeless Jews.

In the Divided States of America today we’ve had an autocratic former president who killed Insurrectionists with his mouth and then enjoyed watching the murders on a White House TV. Now, the autocratic cowardly Donald Trump is running for president again, and has “suggested” that the chair of the Joint Chiefs should be killed with the medieval statement of “Who is going to rid me of this meddlesome general (priest)?”

Will he depend upon the Proud Boys, Three Percenters and Oath Keepers to do his dirty work?

And, then we have the autocrat Ron DeSantis who, if elected president, will “slit the throats of federal workers and members of the deep state” to lead an administrative national nightmare. What else could a Navy officer who laughed at our torturers working over Muslim “detainees” at Gitmo Bay, Cuba do? With DeSantis as governor, people will move to Florida to die in a nice climate. They will also die dumb as a rock near an orange tree stump.

The planet, now in danger of being a flare in the universe, has never been short of dictators killing and directing killers to kill people who have only red blood in their arteries and veins. Hitler and Stalin led autocrats in World War II who were responsible for killing 60 million people.

We now have a psychotic nutcase running for dictator of the DSA so he can become dictator and save only his loyal slaves. The world has had thousands of dictators, including some real jewels, who enjoyed watching killers, human and animal, performing on the Colosseum floor.

An incident at a Rome banquet celebrating the autocratic reign of Emperor Augustus by Roman Senator Vedius Pollio captures the imagination. One of Pollio’s slaves dropped a crystal wine goblet while serving guests. The senator had him thrown into a lamprey pool. Lampreys, considered a delicacy, were raised by rich Romans in pools. They attach themselves to large fish and drain the blood out of them. Lampreys have rows of sharp penetrating teeth in a funnel-like sucking mouth at the end of a boneless, good-tasting, three-foot body. It didn’t take long to drain the blood from the slave. Nothing was weird in autocratic Rome. Think of Nero. The slave gladiator, Spiculus, a cute kid from the provinces, became a hero to the Colosseum crowd and ended up being the adopted son of Nero – who was just a little bit gay.  There were a lot of fast lanes in the Roman Empire.  

Are these people living in the same country?  

Each month Harper’s publishes the “Harper’s Index” which covers the latest research, polls and other information that may give us a grasp on what is happening in this country of about 340 million of all colors, education levels and bank accounts.

Here are just a few items from the October issue:

• Percentage of Republicans who say that their families are worse off than they were a year ago: 60%   Percent of Democrats who say so: 24%

• Percentage of people who think the country is in a recession: 44%   (Gee, that’s the same percentage who say they support the Orange Genius.)

• Factor by which Republicans report hearing more negative than positive economic news: 10 • Portion of Americans who identify as “spiritual” but not “religious”: 1/3 • Percentage by which Democrats are more likely than Republicans to consider New York City safe: 91%

• Percentage of U.S. adults who say the political system is working “very” or “extremely” well: 4%   Percentage who express little confidence in the future of the political system: 63%   Percentage who say there is too little attention paid to the important issues facing the country: 78%

• Percentage of Generation Zers who say they have “a great deal” or “quite a lot” of trust in science: 36%   Trust in the criminal justice system: 5%    Trust in the news: 3% After these critical facts, perhaps one of the reasons might be that 50 Republican senators represent 41 million fewer Americans. California and Wyoming each rate two senators. The problem is California has 39 million more people than Wyoming. By 2040 it will have 46 million more if trends continue.

Another factor was mentioned by former Minnesota Republican governor Arne Carlson in a December 5 column in the Tribune titled “Politicians Don’t Need the People Anymore.”

When he was governor, a Minnesota resident could run for a legislative seat for $5,000 to $6,000. But when the Republican U.S. Supreme Court in the Citizens United case dropped all campaign funding limits and turned corporations into people, now it costs more than $130,000 to run.  

If we don’t amend the Constitution, we may have 25 civil wars or one big one

When the Constitution was approved, Virginia, the most populous state, had 13 times the population of Delaware, the least populous, with a difference of 700,000 people. Sure, times were different, although our present Supreme Court loves to go back in time so we can be “original” and “textualize” what they were doing, establishing airline regulations by oxcart rules language. (I wonder what “cool” meant back in 1790?) According to the 1790 census, the 13 states totaled 3.9 million, with 81% Whites and Blacks as only 3/5th human. Only White male landowners could vote.

We are now 100 times more populous and only 59% are White. As we all came out of Africa about 65,000 years ago anyway, race shouldn’t even be counted. If we are still going to count Whites separately, it’s going to cause a heap of trouble in river and coastal cities. Whites will not be the majority color in about 2040. It’s interesting that our most populous state California is 40% Hispanic, 34% White, 16% Asian, and 6.5% Black according to the 2020 census. Wyoming is 83% White with tiny percentages of other colors. They should all wear coats of many colors, now that there is technically only one human race.  

We may be filibustering ourselves to oblivion Our antique Constitution is as effective today as the 1215 Magna Carta in England would be today. It did contain references to human rights and governance, but it was not a constitution and has never been ratified by the English Parliament. England has gotten along quite well without a constitution. Our constitution is so old now and so politically unamendable, we might be better off without it. Half the country is constitutionally illiterate. We are the victims of minority rule – and it will only get worse.

Here are just a few reasons why:

• Four of the nine justices on the Supreme Court, all Republicans, were confirmed by senators who represented only a minority of the population. This was done while Democrats have won seven of the last nine presidential elections and should have had more court appointments. Look at the mess this has caused!

• Donald Trump’s big tax cut for the rich in 2017 was passed by 51 senators who only represented 44% of the people.

• The U.S. Senate, which at one time liked to call itself “the most deliberative body in the world,” now is called “most useless in the world.” The minority uses the filibuster which requires a supermajority of 60 votes to pass most major legislation. The filibuster is not in the constitution but is often used because we have a constitution. No other legislative body in the world uses the filibuster. It’s not because they’re dumber than our legislators.

• Red state legislatures, many of which have gerrymandered their state into supermajorities, are now passing legislation which limits what blue cities and mayors can do to make life more livable in the bigger cities of the state. Think Houston in Texas, Nashville in Tennessee and Fargo in North Dakota.

There’s a whole lot of bruisin’ goin’ on.