GRITS Living in Red

I’ve been trying to compose something about the election for the past two weeks, but I haven’t had much to add to what’s already been said. After weeks of ads, debates, growing nastiness and $6 BILLION spent, the GOP still has the House, Democrats still rule the Senate and Barack Obama is still President of theUnited States. On Nov. 8, I said to my mom, “Everything feels so normal again. There’s still post election analysis, but nothing really changed.”

“Things didn’t change, but people will have to change. Or this country will fall apart,” my mom replied.

I’ve been wondering if my region of the country will ever change.

“It’s embarrassing how fast Kentucky went to Romney,” said a text from a friend on election night. (He’s from Kentucky but some time late in the night, his state went barely blue.)

I think my state went deep red even before all the polls closed on election night. Some 61 percent of voters here darkened the little circle next to Romney’s name. Most people in Kentucky, like most others in the south, are poor, un- or under-educated and unhealthy. And although we tend to elect democrats as governors, in federal elections, Kentuckians consistently send to Washington people who are against their best interests. The southeast isn’t 100 percent red, nor is the color limited to the region, but results like that can make it hard to be proud to be a G.R.I.T.S.

I take a little comfort in knowing that living here feels paradoxical. I surround myself with lefties, many of whom say Louisville is the only city in Kentucky they could live in, but here we are in the state of Kentucky. At a dinner with progressive friends and colleagues earlier this month, someone brought up how encouraging Louisvilleis to other small cities. We’re an oasis in the desert of sorts, proving you don’t have to relocate to New York City,L.A. or Chicago to find friends who are anti-war and pro-equality and to build a coalition. But as the “big city” within the state, liberal (and conservative) Louisvillians often are as rebuffed as New Yorkers are in the “heartland.”

It’s embarrassing when the senator who’s supposed to represent you makes his number one priority to make the first African American president a one-term president—as opposed to his first priority being you finding full-time work, something you haven’t had since October 2008. It’s horrifying when you have to wonder whether his strategy to “tie ‘Barack Obama around their neck’,” their referring to whicher Democrat wants to challenge him in 2014, is a poor choice of words or a wink and a nod to racist supporters. It’s saddening to know there was an effigy of President Obama hanging from a local gas station on Halloween in 2012.

But it is heartening to know that mom is usually right.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed people can change the world. Indeed. It is the only thing that ever has.” –Margaret Mead

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