A bit of personal reflection

Wednesday, February 15, 2006
I am reflecting on this kerfluffle (to use James Taranto's word) about the hunting accident--I think it was Charlie who, in an earlier post, really pointed out this is the difference between city folk and country folk. I started hunting (birds only) when I was 21--hunted grouse and woodcock in West Point, chukars in the northwest, pheasant in nebrasks etc. I learned about shotguns, loads, hunting with or without dogs and genuinely exhulting in the fall hunting experience in wooded coverts through this country. This whole story is really a red state-blue state symbol; not the divide that exists, but another divide about what red state people do for recreation and what blue state people don't do.

Can anyone who has ever been afield hunting game birds in the fall not fail to understand exactly what happened in Texas? The vice president's story resonates with any hunter who has ever walked up on a covey of quail, or a ruffed grouse, or another game bird holding tight--you can hear them twittering in the brush--moving, , rustling--you can see the dogs stiffening, you can smell the brush, the fall woods, the clean smell of outdoors--and then the covert explodes with birds--that honestly is what it is like, quail flush out, woodcock flush up, grouse flush all over--and anyone who has ever hunted knows that--we understand the risks; we dress accordingly, we understand gun safety and we bemoan an accident--but accidents do happen; they are regretably but they do happen.

But the scene I just described is absolutely unknown to the blue staters, or the press--the convert a very exalting experience into a trite and trivial political statement: it is simply about politics, process, feelings, and political advantage-
And I honestly believe, this is why it will be a cold day in hell before the democrats ever see majority status in this country again.

Yes--as the nattering nabobs of negativism have pointed out, "THIS IS A METAPHOR;" but it is not a metaphor for the reasons they think; it is a metaphor for the difference between the political poles in this country. It defines the differences between the red staters and the blue staters; between the press and the people.

This whole incident will fade in short order; but it, to me, is a genuine snapshot of how far this country is divided.


Syl said...

Damn. That was good, Roger.

David Thomson said...

The uproar over Cheney’s accident will prove to be a disaster for the Democratic Party. Very few swing voters have been persuaded to believe the Vice President has done something wrong. And those who live in the rural areas are clearly seeing how existentially distant they are to the Democrats living within the metropolitan areas. Did I say “existentially distant?” Is that an appropriate term? Yes, it indeed is.

Buddy Larsen said...

Nice, nice essay, RogerA. I could see it and smell it. Almost felt like cleaning my fowling pieces, except I've used up all my WD-40 on my damn knees.

PDS said...

RogerA: well said, but I beg to differ. Not on the scope of the issue, assuming no further revelations of beer drinking before the hunt, but simply on the fundamental issue that you don't shoot the people you hunt with. I find this extremely problematic, not necessarily on a political level, but on a personal level. Those of us who grew up hunting learned two fundamental rules: (1) know where the barrel of your gun/rifle is pointed, and (2) don't touch the metal with your bare hands. Nobody even needed to state the rule, "don't shoot the guy you're hunting with." That was implicit.

Syl said...

"you don't shoot the people you hunt with" on purpose.

There, that's better.

RogerA said...

PDS--I was in now way trying to exonerate the VEEP from blame--He was totally responsible, and I have said that early and often--and he said it as well.

PDS said...

No, Syl, that is not the point.

Anybody can follow the instruction "you don't shoot the people you hunt with On Purpose." It is the area shy of that which calls for judgment, common sense, knowledge of where your hunting partners are at all times, etc., That area, notwithstanding that I am huge supporter of Cheney, is my concern with this incident.

Is this Cheneyquiddick? Obviously not. Is this a merely "no harm, no foul" (no pun intended--but hey, that might a great title for a post...), I don't think so.

Knucklehead said...

The Blue vs. Red disconnect is a widening gulf. In large part it is urban vs. non-urban. Large segments of the high-density suburban (near urban?) population are "blue". But the blue includes academia also.

This apparently includes what was once a slight majority of Americans that is shrinking but I can't imagine how. In any case the Blues have no concept of how the other half lives and no desire to develope a concept.

Pure speculation on my part but I believe the Reds have a better idea how the Blues live than the Blues will ever have about the Reds.

Another speculation is that, in their hearts of hearts, the Blues want to be Euros. Reds, on the other hand, are more than content with being Americans.

I don't see how the Red:Blue ration ever gets beyond roughly 55:45. It is a near permanent problem we face unless something catastrophic happens to shake the Blues "faith" in their own superiority.

Being a more or less Red sort in a Blue world I find the whole thing fascinating but nearly unintelligible. I just cannot fathom how the Blues around me became so hopelessly out of touch.

Knucklehead said...


A hard and fast rule such as "you don't shoot the people you hunt with" is all fine and dandy, but it is clearly violated.

I have no idea how much of a "hunter" any of the people involved in this little quail safari are. They can range anywhere from hunting-knuckleheads who don't actually touch a gun or game very often to people who go every chance they get.

A painful fact of the matter is that none of the people involved are exactly spring chickens anymore. The Old, Grey Mayors and VEEPs and Lawyers ain't what they used to be.

None of this is meant to excuse Cheney. He shouldn't have filled his hunting buddy's hide full of birdshot. He should have known, or not fired until he did, where his hunting partners were. By the same token, however, Whittington apparently walked up within a hundred feet of people who were hunting without either watching closely enough to see the shotgun swinging his way or not being quick enough to duck if he did.

I'm not trying to run a blameshifting operation here. Cheney's gun, Cheney's trigger finger, Cheney's fault. But this is not a "there's clearly some deep, underlying, flaw" type of thing. It isn't a metaphor about Cheney, as Roger said. In the case of Cheney and Whittington it is an unfortunate accident that should never have happened, but somehow did. Roger aptly places the "metaphor" here.

David Thomson said...

“I don't see how the Red:Blue ration ever gets beyond roughly 55:45.”

This probably means that the red states will continue to dominate national politics. The White House, U.S. Senate, and Congress will remain under Republican control. Our blue states are losing population. Red state families are likely to have more children. Also, their economic growth is growing at more rapid clip.

MeaninglessHotAir said...

“I don't see how the Red:Blue ration ever gets beyond roughly 55:45.”

Well, I do. I have watched the prairies gradually depopulate during my lifetime. They are literally emptying out. There is no work, there is no excitement, why keep up the pretence? The economy moves incessantly toward blue-land all the time--it is less and less important to know how to actually do things and more important to know how to take the fruits of the labor away from others. The tony suburbs will grow with time and the little oil- and farm-towns will shrink. As the children of the red states move into the tony suburbs they will increasingly adopt the tony ideas (i.e., the prevailing anti-Americanism) to prove that they've arrived. I look out into the parking lot here and I don't see an American car, and certainly not an American flag. How gauche.

Knucklehead said...


This probably means that the red states will continue to dominate national politics. The White House, U.S. Senate, and Congress will remain under Republican control. Our blue states are losing population. Red state families are likely to have more children. Also, their economic growth is growing at more rapid clip.

There are a number of things at work that don't necessarily work toward keeping Republican control of the Senate and Congress.

Just as one example there is the "abortion" issue. Republicans need to tread lightly here. People will still pull levers - in large numbers - for "pro-choice" candidates (Democrats) if they feel the "pro-life" candidate is "too much" so.

Also, just my sense of things but I think I have it pretty close, there are large numbers of people in the "purple-ish" areas who would, if given half a chance, like to "go home" to the Democrat party. The Dems, with their never ending stridency and complete unwillingness to think about national security in the face of possibly existential danger have pushed people away but not really "out" - if they could ever get their act together there'd be a sorta "snap back" effect.

People's attitude re: the Dems and national security is somewhat similar to the school bussing for integration issues. That effort failed rather dismally not because people were really against integrated schools - they were against having their children bussed and having their local schools wrecked in some grand social experiment. People were not willing (and remain vehemently unwilling) to sacrifice their own kids' educations to the "PC gods".

In an odd way people generally feel similarly about the terrorism/national security issue. The Dems position (if it can be said to be a position) has too much inherent risk and people just won't accept it. People who would like to vote for Dems because they believe the Dems are more interested in the "little people's welfare" are not willing to take the big risk of being subjected to mass murder by madmen for the sake of the small gains in "welfare" that the Dems offer. If the Dems could somehow get out from under being the "big risk" party in terms of national security they could more successfully sell their "welfare" programs.

The Dems just don't seem to be able to figure out how to "soften" their approach about national security. The general US electorate is not much concerned with the "mistreatment" of a handful of "arabs" or "muslims" or the NSA listening to some phone calls 'cause they intuitively see that as, while perhaps less than ideal, a small price to pay to try and keep the terrorist loons at bay. But the Dems are so mired in their need for the Koslings dollars that they can't figure out how to get out from under this. Watch for them to milk the Kosling money teat as long as possible and then shoot for an 11th hour Sistah Soljah Moment re: the BDS Koslings.

Knucklehead said...


There's a lot of accuracy in that observation. It is part of why I see this as a 55:45 sort of ratio rather than something that can ever get as large as 60:40 or more.

There are some things that work to mitigate things swinging quickly toward a pure 50:50 or 45:55 however. One is that becoming a true blue-stater is somewhat generational. Just moving to the crowds isn't a sufficient converter mechanism. It takes a good long while to take the country outta the kid even when the kid moves to the big city.

Another thing is that people are moving toward higher-density population areas but not really moving into the Big City or, even if they are, there's always an corresponding move out of urban and toward suburban and exurban. One has to be a pretty die-hard city lover to stay downtown for an entire lifetime.

I also believe the trend you rightly note is at least mildly mitigated by a slight overall trend toward decentralizing economically. The real high-density areas are just flat out expensive to live in and do business in. There are advantages, of course, but modern communications technology, and the ubiquity of "Brown" and "Fedex" and such make it much easier for companies to escape the more urban areas and set up at least some of their ops in lesser-urbanized areas. Suburbs and exurbs are more "blue" than the rural praries and woodlands but they aren't nearly as blue as the big cities.

One other thing that is working against a return to widespread blueness is the public education system. People don't know what to do about it but they are getting sick of it. And more and more are coming to some realization that there's something wrong even if they don't yet blame the Dems for it. Our friends over at Kitchen Table Math are just the tip of an iceberg that is growing as far as I can see. More and more people are home-schooling their kids and it is not a purely "Christers" phenom anymore. And more and more people are finding themselves forced into taking a bigger hand in their kids primary and secondary educations - either personally or hiring tutors to try and recover what the schools are failing at.

A lot of people are frightened by the "knowledge age" and wish desperately for "good manufacturing jobs" and the like, but they understand, if only vaguely, that they need their brats properly prepped for what seems inevitable. The schools are failing at that and it cannot go on forever that way. There's a looming rise in anger - probably on a distant horizon - about the state of public education. By the time the Dems, if ever, get their national-security act together they may well be facing the Wrath of Mom about the schools.

terrye said...


A friend of mine recently told me that the biggest red necks in Indiana do not live in Greene or Lawrence County, they live in Indy. Like knuck said, taking the country out of the kid is no easy task.

Every year Gale's big city cousins come out to the sticks to hunt. They drive down here in their $50,000 vehicles and park next to an old trailer they have down there by the edge of the woods. And they hunt, cook outside, drink beer and go days without bathing.

They love it.

And the southwest is growing in leaps and bounds. My brother is seeing more building in Oklahoma now than he has seen in years and years and trust me, there is nothing blue about Oklahoma. Not one blue county in 2004. The counties surrounding Fort Sill went for Bush by a vote margin of 2 and 3 to 1.

It is not just how they make a living, it is attitude.

The only way to make the blue staters understand what happened out there is tell them to imagine that they were out sailing with a friend and somehow managed to knock him silly with the yard arm or something.

The truth is I would be surprised if Cheney ever hunts again. I had a wreck years ago and I could not even drive down the road again for years. All I had to do was think about it and I got shakey. He might be the same way about hunting.

Seneca the Younger said...

It is not just how they make a living, it is attitude.

Exactly. I saw it glaringly with my ex-wife. We were going to drive from Sunnyvale to Pueblo to see my father, and planned to take the southern route (I-5 to Bakersfield, take a left, go to Albuquerque, take another left) since she'd never seen much of the Southwest. that route takes you across some of the Mojave between Bakersfield and Kingman.

Just as a matter of course, I made sure we had 10 gallons of water, a Swiss Army Knife, a spaceblanket, and some matches.

She was amazed that I was insiting on the water, and I had to explain that yes, people still die out here when they screw up. It's not like Baltimore, wehere you can hardly get a miles from a 7-11.

I think it's that recognition that you sometimes actually have to take care of yourself that makes the difference.

terrye said...


Oh yes, you are your own first line of defence.

Once when we were on the road out west we ran out of gas. Daddy had to take a long hot walk to get some.

My mother looked at him before he left and said "Mac I read a story in Readers Digest about these people who ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere and they had to drink their own pee. I better not have to drink my own pee... Honey."

There was something in the way she said it that got Daddy up and moving.

He got enough gas from a ranch up the road to get us to a little place called Muddy Gulch. The sign said Muddy Gulch, POP. 5. It was beautiful. A post office, gas station, general store all in one. Little cokes in ice. When you see little cokes in a tub of ice you know you are back in the land of the living.

But we never really doubted we would be fine. It just went with the territory.

Knucklehead said...

My mother looked at him before he left and said "Mac I read a story in Readers Digest about these people who ran out of gas in the middle of nowhere and they had to drink their own pee. I better not have to drink my own pee... Honey."

That is among the most heavily freighted 50 or so words I've ever read. I suspect you take after your mom. ;)

Peter UK said...
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