Letter from California

An archive of the weekly "Letter from Calfornia", written by Jim McCarthy.

Monday, November 01, 2004

Letter from California-November 1, 2004

What happens when a million monkeys type on a million typewriters for a million years? It’s said that eventually you’re bound to end up with the complete works of Shakespeare. This image is supposed to make us realize that no matter how brainless someone might be, they will eventually say something worthwhile. I’ve always thought it was unfair to put people on the level of monkeys like that though. After all, one chimp acting alone could probably knock out Macbeth in monkey howls and ‘hoo-hoo-ha-ha’ screeches in a lot less than a million years. How would we ever know?

On the other hand, just talking a lot never guarantees quality. Maybe a million monkeys would eventually reproduce the Bard, but along the way, they’d accidentally type out the novels of Jackie Collins, the lyrics to all of Celine Dion’s music, and the script of every head-splitting episode of the frighteningly unfunny sitcom, Saved by the Bell. The suffering would be legendary. Worse than that “Tomorrow” song from Annie.

So the more you talk, the more you’re bound to say stupid things. Let’s say you have to talk about world events for 30 minutes a day. That’s not exactly easy, but with the people of earth obligingly killing, insulting and robbing each other with such vigor, 30 minutes should fill up fast. You can safely skip reports that Britney Spears might have gotten engaged to a houseplant over the weekend. Nothing’s been confirmed yet, but someone spotted a ficus in Beverly Hills shopping for a diamond ring so big that even J. Lo would consider it tacky.

If on the other hand, you have to talk about the news 24 hours a day, not only does Britney’s green ring finger make the telecast, you put on a panel of experts to provide “analysis.” It’s painful and bad, but you have a pretty solid excuse: I have to fill 24 hours of airtime a day.

So I have a little sympathy for the news folks covering this election. They’ve got about 30 minutes of real news and another 23 hours and 30 minutes of pointless yammering to do each day. Hey, it’s not easy entertaining insomniacs and the terminally unemployed. Nevertheless, I hold them fully accountable for the dumbest, most tiresome and laziest idea of the year: the so-called cultural differences between the Red States, voting for Bush, and the Blue States, voting for Kerry.

By the time you read this column, we will hopefully have re-elected the pretzel-eating idiot currently running the country. Or, with any luck, we’ll have picked the blow-dried pansy who’s been eating in the Congressional Cafeteria on your dime for the last 20 years. If we’re not so lucky, we’ll be playing Lawyer Ball for weeks to come, like a Bonus Round on the world’s longest, dullest, lowest-rated game show.

Supposedly, the distinction between red and blue states doesn’t just relate to voting. It relates to a much bigger culture clash that, according to the yammerers mentioned above, “divides us as a nation.” For example, in a Red State, you might buy your groceries at a Wal-Mart, whereas in a Blue State, your stovetop is more likely covered with copies of the Sunday Times and Chinese take-out containers. In a Blue State, you probably get your morning pick-me-up from a coffee house; the same is true in a Red State, but the House is probably Maxwell. In a Red State, you park your SUV right in front of your house, driving it to work, school or the mall almost every day. In a Blue State, you spend $90 a month to park your ’96 Celica under your building and drive it once a month to a weekend in a “country” of some kind: “wine,” “gold,” “Amish” or the like.

But here’s the shocking truth: right here in deep-blue California, about 9 out of 20 voters are likely to pull the metaphorical lever for the man from Crawford. Bush won’t win California, but losing 11 to 9 isn’t exactly the butt-kicking you’d expect in Tofu Taco eating California. Likewise, the same 9 or so out of 20 voters in tomato red Texas will sign up for four years of Kerry as Commander-in-Chief. Texas is supposed to be a lock for Bush and California the same for Kerry, but at 11 to 9, a field goal still wins it. It’s that close.

This means that as you drive the country roads of your Red State, making your way to the church barbeque, almost half the people who pick the pig with you will be voting for Kerry, because their conscience tells them that’s the right thing to do. Likewise, as you ride the subway to a Martini Reception in your Blue State, please note that nearly every other person in that subway car with you prefers their martini with gin instead of vodka, and wants Bush to stay where he is, because they think it’s better for the country.

My election week advice is this: vote, but then enjoy your time with friends and neighbors. Have some barbecue and a martini for me and relax. America can stand four years of either of these yahoos at the wheel. We’re a nation of yahoos, after all, and that makes us resilient. You’re not from a Red State, and you’re not from a Blue State, and Washington and Lincoln are not rolling in their graves because of either of these guys. We’ve got some serious problems that the next Prez is going to have to deal with, but we always have. And we always will. By the way, he’s going to need your support.

Whichever of these Old Money, Yale-Educated, sons of famous New England families who just happened to belong to the same social club in school wins.

Oh, yeah. Huge cultural differences.


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