Less than two weeks before the biggest election of my lifetime, I got a tour of Sarah Palin’s “Real America.” In rural, Central Florida the “McCain-Palin” signs outnumber “Obama-Biden” by about 50-1 and add color to a flat, dead landscape of mildewed trailer parks, crumbling buildings and rusted old Chevy lawn ornaments in many front yards.
The dirty, 1950’s storefronts advertise cheap smokes and even cheaper beer. The corporate mass-produced products of slow death numb whatever senses these “real” Americans have left. That and God. The only buildings that stand out here are the churches, and they are largely of the evangelical variety, dominating Catholic houses of worship in numbers similar to what the Republicans enjoy. “What opportunity do people have when they’re born here?” I rhetorically asked my dad. “Not much,” he replied. I assume a military “career” at one end of a gun barrel must look pretty good to young men or women staring down a barrel of emptiness in places like Lake County, FL. These are the kids sent to fight neocon wars and flag-draped “thank you’s” are marketed as “heroic” instead of what they are: exploited.
After touring the still heart of blood red Florida, it’s no mystery why they vote Republican. They’re still living in the glorious post-WWII 1950’s, a time when their cheap labor was the only available and the asbestos factory was at full capacity. Now the factories exploit Chinese workers and asbestos kills those first shift workers who now lack health benefits. Since then, local schools and dominating churches continue to mold young minds to believe in an infallible America and the vital national importance of banning gay marriage. The ignorance bred red also makes these “real” Americans fearful of what’s different, including a middle name of “Hussein.” It’s no wonder Republicans shred education budgets.
Sadly, most of the people living in the rural towns of counties like Lake and Volusia in Florida long for a time that’s never coming back, and some despicable Republican strategists steal their votes by telling them it will.