Pleased as Punch

To: The Home of the Brave, Land of the Free

Re: We, the Purple

Maybe I’m punch drunk.

Or maybe I’m seeing double over what happened in South Dakota. Instead of the requisite 16,000 signatures, over twice that amount made it onto a petition filed on May 30 to repeal South Dakota’s recently passed anti-abortion legislation. I’m water-into-wine wacky, especially since it took only nine weeks to round up all those John/Joan Hancocks, as well as the fact that this counter-initiative is occurring in one of the most conservative, blood-red states in the US.

A giddy congratulations to all the signatories, as well as the 1,200 volunteers in the 138 cities in the 66 counties of South Dakota. By November, when the repeal of HB1215 comes up for a public vote, may you and all your countrymen and women show up to punch a whole lot of holes into this misbegotten ban.

This potential U-turn reminds me of another historic one-two punch: The enacting of the 18th Amendment, Prohibition, and then its reversal with the 21st Amendment. After 13 years of living with a decision that took a bad situation and made it worse, the public demanded a change, wanting freedom not just from Prohibition but freedom from the government inflicting its will over the rights of the individual. By 1932, 75 percent of the voting public and 46 states favored repeal and by 1933, with the passing of the 21st Amendment, the not-so-silent majority ultimately ruled. Not only did the Amendment pass, but with an electorate so deeply unhappy with Hoover, having held him responsible for the depression and the continuing economic woes of the country, they voted in a brand new Democratic leadership under Franklin D. Roosevelt.

If you think that my glasses are a bit too rosé-colored, let’s refocus from 1933 to 1973:

– to a wildly unpopular war that forced a reticent public of all ages, races and religions to protest throughout the country, no matter how often the federal government tried to arrest them;

– to the outcry of the rights of the individual woman’s freedom, to a groundswell led by the likes of Gloria Steinem, Bella Abzug, Shirley Chisholm and Betty Friedan. And even though the President was firmly against abortion, the pro-woman, pro-individual rights bill called Roe v. Wade was enacted in January of 1973;

– to a corrupt presidency and cabinet completely out of touch and out of favor with its people; to a second-term Presidency so paranoid that crimes were committed to hold on to power at any cost. To an ensuing impeachment, to a resignation first by Vice President Spiro Agnew (over bribes and financial impropriety) followed the following summer by the resignation of President Richard M. Nixon.

Like last year’s bumper crop of wine grapes, the parallels between 1973 and the present continue to multiply. The Watergate hotel is once again the site for governmental misdeeds. John Dean is once again testifying against an acting President of the United States. Neil Young is once again writing songs of protest.

Maybe it’s time to break out a ’70s thigh-high, polyester print dress and go cruising around Washington in a neon-yellow AMC Gremlin, its AM radio’s single speaker blasting out Don McLean’s anti-war anthem, “American Pie”.

More important, maybe it’s time to commit to uniting America once again. Hey, red states and blue states, what do you say we get together for a fine, wine shade of purple?

Before the Year 2000, there was no official label of “red state, blue state”. With the advent of color television in the ’60s, the broadcast media utilized colored maps of the country on election night to show the contrasting voting blocs of the two parties. Yet there was still no consensus on color; until 2000, ABC used yellow and blue. But after the election night of 2000, “Red” for Republicans and “Blue” for Democrats stuck. Not only did it stick, but it divided America into two faceless clusters of rampant generalities, shouting each other down with a newfound hate. Red is supposedly agrarian, rural, Christian and Southern; Blue is liberal, elitist, Godless and wealthy. Stereotypes that are laughable, especially given the wealth and power of the “red” corporate, conservative, oil-based Bush & Co. And given the bankrupt “blue” liberals, struggling to pay for heating oil and groceries with a maxed-out credit card.

With those 38,416 signatures, the deep red of South Dakota has just spouted a brand new vein of blue, crushing that divisive state-line stereotype underfoot. These “divide and conquer” politics that have held this country hostage since the Year 2000 must now, finally, become obliterated.

If reproductive rights can cause such a literal stir, what else might get churned up? A co-mixture of mutual objectives such as clean air, affordable fuel alternatives, national health care? South Dakota has shown Americans that it can mix up the conceptual palette, fermenting the red and my blue into a revolutionary vat of purple.

As November nears, let’s become “purple” with rage at the shameless raiding at the top of the corporate pyramid, while the middle and lower classes are rapidly being squeezed out. Let’s become “purple” with passion as we fight for our rights to privacy, to choice, to healthcare, to a decent minimum wage, to practice our religions as we choose.

In 1973, we only had the television and the media. And a lot of us took radical stands against the status quo, using our voices to protest in the streets, even if it meant facing arrest. But in 2006, we have the Internet-an electronic wizard at our very fingertips that gives incredible power. More than just mumbling our complaints to our friends or yelling back at the television screen, we can actually do something.If you love this piece, it might even move you to read more about American civil liberties, and maybe join committees, sign online petitions and with one click, send your thoughts out to be counted at the highest level. At the very least, you can express your purple passions at the voting booth.

Yes … I am definitely punch drunk. And I’m raising this overflowing glass of a new, hearty purple to you, the American public.

Sorry, there’s no punch line here. Just a fervent prayer mixed with a flush of hope that as we near America’s 230th birthday this July 4th, we remember that we can still exercise our independence. And right along with raising those flags … we can still raise our voices at the top of our lungs.

Bottom’s Up,

The Broad