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By Bill Gallagher

DETROIT -- "Go to hell, Yankee!" "Secede before we kick you asses out!" "The South will rise again!" "You are a dangerous nut." "The most hate-filled diatribe I've ever read." "The South should be free to rid itself of this Northern forced plague."

My, my, aren't they testy? You would think I'd vilified Gen. Robert E. Lee, desecrated "Stonewall" Jackson's grave and re-enacted Sherman's march to the sea.

Niagara River
Mt. Views

Simply pointing out that, in many respects, the Blue States had more in common politically and socially with Canada inflamed and enraged more than a few readers, mostly from the Red States.

Although, in my column last week, I never advocated secession, I was flooded with e-mails urging me and all like-thinking liberals to leave the union.

I was amazed at the number of people advancing arcane theories about how secession would work, the constitutional mechanics of expelling the Blue States and how much better off the folks in the United Christian Kingdom of Bush (UCKB) would be with the unholy states of the North and West Coast separated from the territory under the flag of the radical religious right.

"I challenge you to actually read the Good Book and see in the New Testament that Christianity is not the hateful, evil religion you seem to think it is," one reader wrote.

Of, course, I never suggested that, but the remark is typical of those who equate criticism of thoroughly politicized preachers -- who used their pulpits to urge their flock to vote for Bush because he embraced "moral values" -- as an assault on Christianity.

The anti-gay rhetoric was most evident. Someone who signed an e-mail "McRebel" wrote, "The thought of all you liberals and gays and Broadway show tunes being in a foreign country is wonderful."

For pure venom, it's hard to top Walter Ring from Richmond, Va., the capital of the Confederacy, as he proudly noted.

"The blue states can secede and join Canada and I wish they would," he wrote, and then -- while accusing me of being a Communist and harboring "hate" for America -- he suggested, "Now, go have fun with your gay friends while they gang-rape you and molest your children. If tolerance is having your children raped by negroes, spics, gays and other moral degenerates, I will stick with red intolerance, thanks."

I'm sure after composing that inspirational prose, old Walter picked up his Bible and smiled, pleased with his moral superiority and righteousness.

For quite a few below the Mason-Dixon Line, I seemed to have somehow poked the raw nerve of Red State wrath and resentment toward the Blue States and our alleged "lack of Christian values." However, some messages were hopeful, including several from people in Texas and Oklahoma who represent a progressive oasis in that desert of right-wing fanaticism.

Angel McCormack, from Houston, Texas, points out that in Harris County (Houston), 45 percent of the votes went to John Kerry, and Dallas County was a virtual toss-up. That is encouraging, and eventually more people in the Red States will wake up when they realize that Bush's war in Iraq is a horrible mistake, his monumental deficits are doing serious harm to our economic future, and working-class people will suffer the most.

Armed with a stack of unread e-mails, I stopped in a friendly watering-hole after work one day last week for a gentle libation and chance to catch up on my reading. I grab a seat at the bar next to John Lipchik, who runs the carwash next door and is a member of the punk rock band Smashbandits. John is a committed libertarian and Bush's assault on constitutional protections and basic rights disturbs him greatly.

Another guy came in and ordered a beer. He was skinny as a rail, wore a baseball cap over his pony tail and had the map of Texas and Opus, the comic strip penguin, tattooed on his arm.

I had a computer print-out of the Niagara Falls Reporter cover with the map of Blue States connected to Canada and the headline "Brave New World," and copies of my story, which, each week, several of the wait staff either enjoy or despise.

John and I were quietly chatting about politics and we carefully eased the stranger into the conversation. He laughed at the map. When I told him I had written some less-than-flattering things about Texas that he might find offensive, he just shrugged.

"Actually, it don't piss me off. What are you apologizing for? We treat the North a lot worse."

I liked the guy immediately and then heard some Red State political wisdom worth sharing.

I mentioned I that had gotten quite a few angry e-mails about referring to the Confederate Flag as a symbol of treason.

"They care more about the damn flag than they do about Bush," he said.

Jerry McIntosh Jr. is from Pearland, Texas, outside Houston, where his daddy is a retired cattle rancher. Jerry's daddy, Jerry Sr., is the source of his inspired political views.

"My daddy's a common-sense kind of guy. He can't stand Bush," Jerry said, adding, "He told me he didn't vote for that cattle-rustling son of a bitch and neither did I."

It was so refreshing hearing political truth in a twang.

Jerry then regaled us with his and his daddy's views on the issues of the day.

On George W. Bush's worldview: "He has no fur'in policy at all and he's been running around pissing off every country in the world."

On Bush's weapons of mass destruction in Iraq -- the rationale for war: "Daddy says, like, if they had 'em, it should have been like walking through a cow pasture at night blindfolded. You can't miss stepping in it."

On gay rights and moral values: "My daddy says if you're gay, that's your business and I have no right to judge you, because I'll be judged myself someday."

On Bush's "mandate" and the Republican Congress: "Daddy says we got to have checks and balances or all the lobbyists will win every time and the working man will be screwed."

As Jerry entertained us, another local regular sat at the bar. He's a former FBI agent, conservative Republican and avid Bush supporter. He didn't appreciate Jerry's irreverence as we laughed at his homespun humor.

Jerry chuckled, "I'm just a dumb hick from Planet Texas. When I came up here, I thought Labatt was some kind of wood."

As Jerry read some of my hostile e-mails, he held the paper close to his thick glasses. The FBI man whispered into my ear, "Look at him. He can't even read."

While liberals are often branded as social and intellectual elitists, this conservative businessman seemed as much annoyed by Jerry's simple country ways as his by his denunciations of George W. Bush. As I took notes on Jerry's remarks, FBI man kept ranting.

"That guy can't even read and you're listening to him like he knows what he's talking about."

I bought Jerry a shot of Cuervo Gold. FBI man huffed out of the joint, without saying goodbye, leaving some money and half a drink.

John said, "What's wrong with him?" Jerry wondered, too.

"Well, I tell you," I said, shaking my head. "He said he doesn't think you can read, Jerry." Smiling at that ridiculous assessment, Jerry said, "Sure I can. And ya know something, my favorite columnist is that Mereen Daud in The New York Times."

I have a new friend and greater respect for Red State wisdom. FBI man is seething and there is hope for our republic.


Bill Gallagher, a Peabody Award winner, is a former Niagara Falls city councilman who now covers Detroit for Fox2 News. His e-mail address is gallaghernewsman@aol.com.

Niagara Falls Reporter www.niagarafallsreporter.com Nov. 16 2004