Lauren Mayer: State of Mind

As last fall’s election made painfully clear, we are a bitterly divided nation: liberal vs. conservative, urban vs. rural, blue vs. red.  States in particular have gotten increasingly polarized, with many state legislatures in the control of super-majorities, and each with their own occasionally defiant ideology.  Some are pro-business & anti-regulation, some have enacted their own abortion restrictions, some have legalized marijuana even for recreational use, etc.  And many states have well-accepted images – Texas has cowboys and oil mavericks, Florida is the home of retired grandparents with New York accents, and thanks to the TV show Portlandia, Oregon is now known to be laid back yet trendy.  And so forth.

But what’s happening to California?  We’re still a lopsidedly blue state, known for our mild weather, tourist attractions, and botoxed spray-tanned movie stars, but we also used to be the proudly progressive state, or as my Long Island father-in-law calls us, “the land of fruits and nuts.”  However, now 12 states plus the District of Columbia are ahead of us in legalizing same-sex marriage.  And that includes all of New England, which used to be a bastion of Puritan conservativism.  (In my freshman history class at Yale, where I was the only student from the west coast, we learned that the early colonial settlers preferred New England to Virginia because they feared the milder southern weather would encourage indolence and leisure  – the professor helpfully added, “so that could explain what’s wrong with California.”  Fortunately, I have neither blond hair or a tan, so no one realized I was one of those self-indulgent slobs who’d been corrupted by sunny weather.)

But I digress – Minnesota’s vote for marriage equality is a cause for celebration, and I also understand that legislators in California are waiting for the Supreme Court decision on Proposition 8, but it’s still just a little embarrassing to realize that the way state legislatures are jumping on the bandwagon, we probably won’t even make it to the top 20.  And of course there are plenty of liberals in Minnesota, but we don’t exactly think of it as a wild and crazy state full of drag queens and hemp growers.  Minnesota has always defied easy categorization,  with stoic, independent residents who don’t mind the harsh weather, a place whose congressional delegation can include both Al Franken and Michelle Bachmann, a state which includes wide open spaces and the thriving Twin City area where Mary Tyler Moore threw her hat in the air.  So sure, I expected they might come around on marriage equality, but I still thought California would get there first.  Now is our only example of leadership going to be allowing right-turn-on-red, as Woody Allen once observed?  (Congrats to any of you who recognized that as a line from Annie Hall, and yes, I’m one of those fair-weather fans who prefers Woody Allen’s funny movies . . . . )

Oh well, we can drown our sorrows in organic chai lattes and kale smoothies (which by now they probably have in Minnesota too), and sing this song celebrating the latest good news on marriage equality despite California’s diminishing hipness . . .


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