Thursday, May 19, 2005

One state, two state, red state, blue state

Geoffrey Nunberg had a recent piece on NPR's "Fresh Air," about red states and blue states. You can read the text here.

I know, I know, you're tired of reading about them. So am I. But I enjoyed what he had to say. Consider:
Until recently, red connoted the revolutionary left -- the Red Army, the Little Red Book, "a bunch of reds." That connection was first made in the 1830's from the color of either a flag or party badge -- there are different stories about this.[1] But it caught on because red evokes passion, violence, and the forbidden. ...

Blue, on the other hand, evokes fixity, coolness and reserve, which is why it's historically associated with conservatism and propriety. You think of bluebloods and blue-noses, not to mention blue chips, blue laws, and the blue book that lists the names of socially prominent families. Blue is the traditional color of the Conservative Party in the UK, and in Canada, the Blue Tories are the conservative wing of the party. It's no wonder foreigners sometimes feel that we Americans have gotten our chromatic wires crossed.
So why is this reversal working? Nunberg has some ideas. And let's hope he's right when he says this:
The faster the media pick up on a fashion, the more quickly they tend to drop it when it gets shopworn. My guess is that the appeal of dividing America into color-coded cultures will fade as soon as another presidential election re-arranges the electoral quilt into something less tidy. Or as soon as "The Simple Life" goes into reruns -- whichever comes first.
(And to think, we can help make it happen. Huzzah!)


Post a Comment

<< Home