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Blue and red America: Are the United States falling apart?

Blue and red America: Are the United States falling apart?

Tourism is the biggest industry here. The time has come, in my opinion, for us in the State of Hawaii to consider the pros and cons of remaining part of the United States or of seceding from the union. These are the thoughts by Alan Howard, a professor emeritus of cultural anthropology at the University of Hawaii at Manoa in his column published today in the Honolulu Star Advertiser

He leaves out consequences what this would do to the economy of this Island State, tourism and the American citizens residing there in what is known the Aloha State.  Howard argues:  As has been widely acknowledged, there are currently two Americas — read USAs — socially and culturally, based on two different sets of guiding principles that are fundamentally incompatible.

What may cause some confusion is that both Americas are based on the notion of protection of individual freedoms, and for this reason both honor the U.S. Constitution, which promises the protection of such freedoms. However, freedom has come to mean quite different things to the two Americas.

For one — let’s call it “red America” — the emphasis is on rights in property: the right to own land and natural resources and to use them for personal or collective gain unencumbered by government interference, the right to own guns without restriction, the right to own businesses and pursue profit without overbearing regulations and without regard for the common good.

For the other — “blue America” — freedom implies the right to pursue personal goals without being encumbered by government regulation: the right to worship as we please, to choose as partners and marry whomever we please, the right to choose whether or not to bear a fetus — all without harassment, censure, or infringement from the authorities.

A second distinction is the preference by red America for cultural uniformity, the guiding notion being that everyone, regardless of origin, should assimilate to “the American way of life” as they conceive it. This gets expressed in several ways: that everyone’s primary language should be English, that the United States should officially be a Christian nation, that because earlier generations of white European immigrants presumably best exemplify the American way, they are the ones who should be in charge of its institutions, and that the traditional roles of males and females should be upheld in law.

In contrast, blue America values diversity and multiculturalism. There is a commitment to separation between church and state and to welcoming immigrants who wish to preserve their languages, cuisine and ways of life. The political commitment of blue Americans is for the control of institutions, including government, to be in the hands of well-informed, open-minded and empathetic leaders whatever their ethnicity, gender or religious beliefs.

The two Americas tend to rely on quite different ways of making sense of the world we live in, of assigning causation and blame, and of prescribing solutions to social problems. Whereas red America relies primarily on interpretations of scriptures and faith-based assumptions, blue America relies primarily on knowledge generated by scientific methods.

I question the feasibility of these opposing worldviews coexisting within the same national entity without perpetual strife and enmity. The polarization that we see in our country at present, the anger and venom being spewed at one another, is not indicative of a healthy civic society. We could continue this way indefinitely in the hope that ultimately reason will prevail, but reconciliation seems less and less likely, given current trends.

Unlikely as it is to materialize, there has been post-election sentiment expressed in West Coast states in favor of secession based on the overwhelming desire by a great many people of blue persuasion to dissociate from the reds.

In (blue) Hawaii, we understand these emotions, but we have a better case than most for secession, given that Hawaii was illegally annexed by the United States in the first place. I propose that we engage in serious discussions about the costs and benefits of secession, on the grounds not only of economics but also of a moral commitment to a worldview that differs so radically from red America.


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