Where is the new Mason Dixon line?

Or, probably more accurately: where are the new Mason Dixon lines?  How is our country divided in ways that have not been as severe since the Civil War?  It is now divided both geographically and in how we view reality.  I often hear people who live in Boulder (poor obtuse wretches), hear the words of conservatives and their beliefs and wonder “how can they believe that?”

How, indeed.  I think it is easy if you accept that everyone lives in their own reality– it’s probably a requirement to function in the modern world.  People believe what they want to believe, but there is a distinct divide in our country between the conservative mindset and everyone else.  I’m not going to say ‘liberals’ or ‘progressives’ because there are hardly any of them, just non-conservatives.  I know, I am one, and there are none in Boulder.

I have a cousin, Zack.  He is my youngest cousin.  He, and his brother Jacob, are my cousins because my uncle Joe said, “these are my sons.”  That made them so, adopted or no.  I love my uncles, living or gone, each and every one.  I respect them when they speak wisely, and keep my mouth closed when they do not.  But, when they spoke out of love, I always listened.

Jacob and Zack are of what has become an oddly acceptable term: mixed race.  It’s odd because of what it means for him where he lives and that it hardly matters where I do.

Do you know what got Trayvon Martin killed?  Having a smart mouth in a town where he’d been singled out and categorized by his color in the name of “security” in largely white community one or maybe 50 too many times.  Also, a fat-fuck jagoff with a Barney Fife complex and a gun got in his face and didn’t realize he was dealing with a kid not a threat.

What does my 19 year old smart-mouth cousin face in his community of white people terrified by the shit they see on Fox News?  What fat-fuck jagoff is waiting in his future with an itchy finger and bunch of white rage at ‘them’?

Only 150 miles north, lies my home town, Newton, IA.  It is my hometown because I was born there and spent the first nine years of my life in and around it.

My oldest uncle, Robert, recently died after a long battle with prostate cancer.  His death was a sad occasion, but he would have been happy to know how many people showed up, how many people loved him and his family.  The good that follows even a funeral is the people it brings together.

I returned to Newton, as did my uncle Joe and his family including Zack, Jake and his young family, so did a lot of others, it was so good to see them all.  I love them all.

Later that night, some of my family got together at my folks house.  After a couple beers the conversation turned, as it always does among a bunch of hard-headed Osborns to what was wrong with the world.  After everyone in the room came to the conclusion that it was Obama, my reasons (he’s not FDR) differing entirely from theirs (he’s black), one or two of them started in on ‘the blacks in Colfax’, and how they were drawing welfare and having babies with white girls.

In addition to being the most whacked out thing to say after attending a funeral and afterward sitting down to dine with your youngest cousin, Zack, it reinforced something that I felt but had not experienced first hand until then: I lived in a different reality than these people, my kin, whom I love, but don’t understand at all. 

The next day I got up and drove west across Nebraska, another state where any pretense of friendliness to ‘them who is different’ quickly evaporates outside the rest areas and pit stops that give it some semblance of an economy.  I knew I was in a sort of enemy territory, and that I was in my home town, too.  I’ve learned to watch what I say there– it does no good to provoke them or even to attempt to shame them.  My father has always said, “it’s better to keep your mouth shut and be thought a fool than open it and confirm the fact.”

Iowa and Missouri are battleground states– hell, all 50 are battleground states in some ways, but there is a kind of band that runs up from the south, through the great plains and Midwest reaching up through rural Canada (where the Keystone will flow) and taking a hard left geographically, but a hard right one politically into Alaska.

This is where the new south is.  It is built on fear, hatred and a belief that freedom means “every man for himself” rather than “we’re all in this together– one for all and all for one.”

I have offered my aunt Kathy to have Zack come out and see us here in the front range.  To get him out over the new M/D line, where he can be judged by the content of his character and not the color of his skin (but, please don’t judge–assess).  He can see that there are places he can walk and be left alone, and he’s just another smart-ass kid, like mine when they were that age.



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