A lot has been made of the Red State/Blue State divide over the past four years, even though it’s a load of crap. Actually, if you look at a map that divides up voters by county instead of by state, you see that the real divide is between us enlightened urban folk and everybody else. Don’t believe me? Check it out, the “county map” looks a lot like a picture of America from space, with the bright lights voting for Kerry and the outer darkness Bush territory. (Kerry voters are red on this map, just to mess with you).
I decided to talk to some of my fellow urbanites about whether they feel like outcasts in their own country, lonely islands of sanity surrounded by a sea of savage ignorance, relics of a once great civilization slowly being crushed under the weight of suburban sprawl. The following is an unscientific sampling of people you might meet around the neighborhood.
Frank, Tai Chi instructor: I’ve avoided watching much political stuff since the election. But I did watch some things over the weekend. Did you see John Stewart on, uh . . .
EG: Crossfire? That was funny.
F: Yeah, something Tucker. . .
EG: Tucker Carlson’s show.
Victor: Bowtie Boy?
F: Yeah. There was this woman on that show, Amy something, editor of the Village Voice in New York. She said the media was to blame for this. They don’t investigate anymore. They just tell the positions of the two parties.
EG: He said, she said?
F: Yeah. They don’t seek the truth anymore. But at least Bush has a plan for Social Security.
EG: What’s that?
Chucky C, Tai Chi student, musician: Man, this city’s changed. West of Western they don’t speak English anymore. And they brought all that gang shit with them from Mexico. Why do you think I have to have four locks on everything, and own a dangerous dog?
EG: Dude, your dog only has three legs, and she’s the friendliest dog I’ve ever met . . .
CC: yeah, but they don’t know that. She looked mean before she got hit by that car. And she can still bark. I might leave town too, man. The suburbs, or better yet Montana. It’s quiet there, man, you can live your life, you know? Montana! Me, my dog and my Harley.
EG: How are you going to move a three-legged dog on a Harley?
Apnea, bartender at Darwin’s: Man, people are so mean! It’s all about hate, that’s so lame!
EG: Do you feel like Chicago is in a different country?
A: Not really. I used to live in Arkansas. It was pretty fucked up there, when it wasn’t totally boring. But I mean, people were cool there, you know? This guy Dennis, who did this tattoo [points], he was pretty cool. He OD’d . . .
EG: I’m sorry.
A: Yeah, I like it better here. Though,. all these yuppies moving in though, it’s just not the Darwin’s we know and love anymore.
Chloe, city worker: Help me take a picture of this parking sign, I can’t figure out this digital camera.
EG: Okay .
Chloe: I can see why people leave, I’m only still here because of the residency requirement. ‘Cause they screw you over for every dollar they can get. Look, my car was mostly on that part of the sign, right? But they gave me a ticket!
EG: Uh huh
Chloe: And then the property taxes. Gonna bankrupt me. We’re right across from Ray school though, in Hyde Park. A good school. Most of them are terrible. I want my daughter to have a good school It’s so expensive though! I just want to buy a house. Do I look good in that one?
Chloe: I want to look good in the pictures, in case there’s a cute juror.
Ezekiel Holmes, crazy guy who sleeps on the park bench: Got any pot?
EH: Shit. Man, this is depressing.
EG: The elections?
EH: Huh? No, my woman. She went to see her mother in Missouri. She told me not to come, but I want to go see her. Can I have fifty bucks?
EG: I thought you were on parole, and weren’t supposed to leave the state.EH: I’m a new man. It was the drugs and my selfish bad decisions, man. Jesus saved me from all that. I have a mission now. I only go to the crackhouses to preach the Word to my brothers in need now. I don’t do the drugs anymore. Except for the weed, you know. But If I go down there, she’ll know I really love her, man! She waited for me and I appreciate that.
EG: If you get caught, they will put you back in jail, Jesus or no Jesus.
EH: Damn, man. So you won’t help me?
EG: Help you get arrested? I’m pretty sure you can do that on your own. Now, the elections, how do you feel about Bush . . .
EH: Ain’t nobody going to beat Clinton, man.
EG: Um, Bush is President now.
EG: Different one. Junior.
EH: When did that happen?
EG: You were in prison.
EH: You sure you don’t got no weed?
Nate, Yuppie at Bar Louie: Real estate prices have to rise, man, to get rid of the lowlifes and gangster shit. I mean come on, it’s a privilege to live in the city, you know? These assholes they drop out of high school, they can’t do anything, and they think they deserve prime real estate? Forget about it, man. Look, there’s a place for high school dropouts with no skills. It’s called a trailer park. You want to live downtown, with public transit and parks and shit, you gotta pay for it, that’s what I think.
EG: What do you think about the election.
NY: I’m a libertarian, man. I didn’t know who to vote for. I mean, I like Bush’s tax cuts, but he’s just borrowing now, he’s not really cutting handouts to the bums. If you can’t make it, starve in the street, that’s what I think. But all this religious bullshit about gay marriage. I’ll marry who I want to goddammit, where do these toothless bastards get off telling me how to live?
EG: So who did you vote for?
NY: Badnarik, Libertarian. Fuck it. One day we’re going to take this country back, man.
EG: Take it back from the majority of the population?
NY: Take it back from all the idiots, man. It’s ours, get off it.
Urban Assault Barbie: Like it’s so cool that everybody turned out to vote and all. It was patriotic. And the long lines? The people watching was fantastic? But a lot of fashion casualties. I’m sad to say it, but it’s true.
EG: How do you feel about the election?
UAB: Depressed, you know? It was our turn. The rednecks had a chance, and they screwed everything up. We were gonna get in there, kick some terrorist ass and look great doing it! I mean these Christian Coalition guys, whatever . . .
EG: They’re bigots?
UAB: Their hair! I mean, Ralph Reed, what is that? Am I supposed to believe that’s real?
EG: Do you think their lack of, perhaps you’d call it stylishness, might be attractive to people who resent the “cultural elite?”
UAB: They call us the elite because we’re better than everybody. We’re smarter, we have better jobs, we look better, we have better taste . . .
EG: I’m being lectured about taste by someone who drives a hot pink Hummer.
Mamie Grobnik, my aunt from DuPage County: Is the city a separate culture? I suppose. I know I never go there anymore. Your uncle tried to get a pizza on the South Side, around 71st Street once and the owner called the police to get him an escort! They said he never would have gotten out of there safely without them! It’s all a black area there now, he had no idea what he was walking into. And it’s only gotten worse since then.
EG: When was this?
MG: Oh, I don't recall. It would have been about 1970.
EG: I work on the South Side all the time and I’ve never had any trouble.
MG: Well, it’s a question of how far south . . .
EG: Actually as you get further south it’s mostly middle class, it’s the near South Side that’s poor. I work with programs all over the South Side.
MG: Oh dear God. Couldn’t you find a job that’s a little . . . safer?
EG: I can take care of myself, Aunt Mamie.
MG: Well, you just be careful.
Andy Capp, precinct captain: I’ve lived in this neighborhood my whole life, it’s always been Democratic. It’s changed a lot, but we’ve had a good organization here. Speaking of which, you just let us know if there’s anything we can do for you. Extra trash to pick up, or a parking ticket?
EG: Thanks, man. Do you think the Democratic Party will be able to reclaim majority status again?
AC: Well, it’s all a question of turnout. It used to be, you could just give people their Thanksgiving turkey and get their cousin a job pushing a broom for the city, and you had their vote. Now, between the Shankman bullshit and the suburbs, and you had their votes.
EG: So it is the suburbs
AC: Everything’s all privatized, there’s not so many jobs to give out for political work. Without jobs, how do you get votes?
EG: Well, you could deliver on your campaign promises to make people’s lives better . . .
AC: No way. Look, once people have money, they’ll move further out and become Republicans. It’s about keeping them here, and giving them little stuff they’ll remember come Election Day. And turning them out at the polls.
EG: Kinda like a pimp “turns out” his girlfriend?
AC: Heh. Yeah, sort of. But the party will be back, we always come back. Like that guy who sawed his arm off, you know? He survived. He was trapped under a rock, but once his flesh started to rot he know he could get out. I saw it on TV. He actually had to break the arm bones, and he could just saw through the rotting flesh. So when he cut into his arm and gasses escaped, he knew he’d be all right, see?
EG: That’s disgusting. Uh, hey Andy I have to be going now.
AC: Hey OK. Remember, if you need anything just call us, we’re here to help. And don’t forget to vote for Alderman Matlack and Mayor Daley, okay?
So there you have it, reflections from some true Blue Americans on the diminished role of the city in American politics. I think I need another beer now.