Maggie Jordan, one of the characters in Newsroom, says in one episode during Season Two that “The country is divided into people who like sex and people who are utterly creeped out by it. I’m one of the sex people.” As creepy as that description might be for those celebrity pastors who write books about how enjoyable sex is (read TKNY), the statement seems pretty accurate. Chances are most Americans agree about economic matters. Differences might emerge about tax rates but hardly anyone (except Pope Francis) is questioning consumerism and the benefits of buying. Most Americans agree on foreign policy. They might question a foreign war here or there. But a hegemonic United States is desirable across the aisle as is applause for American soldiers. No one disagrees about English as the nation’s language. No one questions the Constitution, though interpretations vary. No one seriously objects to the NFL.
But on sex we differ. In fact, the most contested aspects of political life surround either giving more freedom to sex (and reducing its consequences) or trying to put restraints on it. Make the left grant unlimited access to guns the way they seem to think about sex and make the right apply its logic about guns to sex and you might have a united country.
By the way, America’s sexual exceptionalism is not the most flattering aspect of national history. Until the 1960s pretty much every important thinker recognized that restraint in sexual matters was important. Whether Aristotle was telling Greeks not to imitate animals (who do enjoy unrestrained access to sex and its consequences), or Romans were advocating restraint of the baser passions, or Christians were arguing for chastity, pretty much all the major civilizational food groups disapproved of easy access to sex. Not so post sexual-revolution America.
great pretty good?
But here’s the solution. Why don’t we create two districts in the United States, one where people who like sex live and one where people who are creeped out about live. Let’s let (easier for me now that I’m in the
Great Pretty Good Lakes region the sexy people have the Northeast and the West Coast, and we’ll give them Illinois and Minnesota for those afraid of hurricanes and tsunamis. The rest of the country will live and move and have their being in the unsexy district. In the latter, states will be free to pass laws against abortion, adultery, same-sex marriage, and pornography (which doesn’t include HBO). Both districts will still participate in the federal government. But the national government will recognize this fundamental divide in American character and respect the boundaries of the Sexy and Unsexy Districts.
Of course, the pro-unionists in the nation won’t hear of this because such a proposal the sort of thing that the South proposed with the creation of the Confederacy. And if you make an idol out of national union — please don’t weigh in on Northern Ireland or Israel, then — then I understand this proposal makes no sense. There goes the meaning of Abraham Lincoln. EEE GADS!
But if you are a federalist, then this idea should have some appeal. At the basis of federalism was the idea of granting real power to local authorities while participating in certain common endeavors for the good of the larger whole. This is what Protestants even tried to achieve with the — wait for it — Federal Council of Churches; a federation that granted powers to the member denominations while finding ways to cooperate on common projects, like transforming the United States into a Christian nation. Federalism is a great way to allow for serious differences in a country. If you only have nationalism, then winner takes all. DOUBLE EEE GADS!!
The real defect in this proposal is that the unsexy Americans who live in the Northeast and the West Coast (and Lake Wobegone) will have to move to unsexy territories. But that’s a heck of a lot better than becoming a refugee — think Syria. The same goes for the sexy people who live in South Carolina and Utah. They will have to relocate. But they will be able to keep their portfolio, won’t need to learn a new language, and can use the same currency. The also won’t have to convert to metric or Celsius.
The advantage in such a scheme is that over the course of a generation or two, we might actually see which is a better way to organize a society. Maybe sexy America will prove itself better in the long run, but where they will get new generations to replace the old is anyone’s guess. And maybe unsexy America will prove itself incapable of anything culturally or financially interesting. But the history of the human race until 1965 suggests otherwise. If unsexy America could produce H. L. Mencken, how bad can being creeped out by sex be?