A reader recently shared an article from Politico, titled, “Gun Violence is Actually Worse in Red States. It’s Not Even Close.” It began by quoting the rhetoric of various ambitious Republicans on the subject:
In October, Florida’s Republican governor Ron DeSantis proclaimed crime in New York City was “out of control” and blamed it on George Soros. Another Sunshine State politico, former president Donald Trump, offered his native city up as a Democrat-run dystopia, one of those places “where the middle class used to flock to live the American dream are now war zones, literal war zones.” In May 2022, hours after 19 children were murdered at Robb Elementary in Uvalde, Texas, Republican Gov. Greg Abbott swatted back suggestions that the state could save lives by implementing tougher gun laws by proclaiming“Chicago and L.A. and New York disprove that thesis.”
As the article points out, this is pure propaganda.
In reality, the region the Big Apple comprises most of is far and away the safest part of the U.S. mainland when it comes to gun violence, while the regions Florida and Texas belong to have per capita firearm death rates (homicides and suicides) three to four times higher than New York’s. On a regional basis it’s the southern swath of the country — in cities and rural areas alike — where the rate of deadly gun violence is most acute, regions where Republicans have dominated state governments for decades.
There are a number of reasons beyond policy for these disparities, including the differing cultures of those who originally colonized various areas of the country. But the current assaults on even minimal efforts to reduce gun violence employ outright lies to play on deep-seated, mostly rural fears of urban life.
There are mounting, disquieting “cautionary tales” about America’s deepening divisions into rural and urban, Red and Blue. A week or so ago, the Washington Post ran a truly terrifying story about the radical Right takeover of a small Michigan county. It deserves to be read in its entirety, but the introductory paragraphs are instructive.
The eight new members of the Ottawa County Board of Commissioners had run for office promising to “thwart tyranny” in their lakeside Michigan community of 300,000 people.
In this case the oppressive force they aimed to thwart was the county government they now ran….
The new commissioners, all Republicans, swore their oaths of office on family Bibles. And then the firings began. Gone was the lawyer who had represented Ottawa County for 40 years. Gone was the county administrator who oversaw a staff of 1,800. To run the health department, they voted to install a service manager from a local HVAC company who had gained prominence as a critic of mask mandates.
As the session entered its fourth hour, Sylvia Rhodea, the board’s new vice chair, put forward a motion to change the motto that sat atop the county’s website and graced its official stationery. “Whereas the vision statement of ‘Where You Belong’ has been used to promote the divisive Marxist ideology of the race, equity movement”…
Rhodea proposed to unite the county around America’s “true history” as a “land of systemic opportunity built on the Constitution, Christianity and capitalism.’”
County Commission meetings everywhere tend to be lightly attended, but the article reports that ensuing meetings of this particular board were “packed with so many angry people calling each other “fascists,” “communists,” “Christian nationalists” and “racists” that the county would have to open an overflow room down the hall.”
In a seemingly long gone era – before the Trump presidency, and Covid, and the 2020 election – Doni Chamberlain would get the occasional call from a displeased reader who had taken issue with one of her columns. They would sometimes call her stupid and use profanities.
Today, when people don’t like her pieces, Chamberlain said, they tell her she’s a communist who doesn’t deserve to live. One local conservative radio host said she should be hanged.
The escalation of America’s culture wars isn’t only visible in small, rural counties. Consider a recent report out of Alabama.
The state of Alabama’s top early education official was forced out Friday by Gov. Kay Ivey over a teacher resource guide—one that promotes inclusion of various kinds of families and acknowledges the reality of racism in the nation’s history—the Republican leader denounced as too “woke.”
After an apparent refusal to denounce the book or accept its removal, Barbara Cooper, head of the Alabama Department of Early Education, was compelled to tender her resignation, which Ivey accepted.
And speaking of gun culture, the Guardian also reported on an event held by Idaho Republicans that “honored” Kyle Rittenhouse, the teen who shot and killed two people at an anti-racism protest.
There really are two (very different) Americas.