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The Benighted States of America

It's hard to escape the feeling that the country is coming apart at the seams, and that the seams are literally the borders between the states.

It used to be, when we talked of red states and blue states, we were basically talking about electorates, and how they voted. Now we're talking about deep cultural divides that are, on the red side, wholly artificial — they're being imposed from above, with little or no popular support. Republicans with veto-proof majorities in their state legislatures are writing harsh new rules for living in their states, more-or-less inviting anyone who's not happy about it to leave.  

At this point, one can't even call it sabotage — these legislators are no longer operating in secret. They're openly dismantling the laws and institutions of their states, with very little idea — let alone care — about what to do once everything is dismantled. They have no interest in the well-being of their constituents, only in the venality of their wealthy friends and the ability to punch down the social ladder with impunity.

If you're a sentient human living within the borders of a state being run by these bent legislators, you're looking at a future of escalating cognitive dissonance.

Your benighted state is now directly in your face, which is not where a state should be. It now determines how you plan and raise a family, how you educate your children, how you access rational healthcare, and how you manage to coexist with armed and dangerous neighbors.

If you're a physician or an educator, your state controls whether you can practice your profession in the ways you were trained, or whether the threat of vengeful lawsuits will cloud your decision-making.

If you're female, or Black, or Latina, or an immigrant — or anything but white, straight, and Christo-fascist — your state wants to push you out to society's margins. It wants to de-humanize you, criminalize you, and encourage you — one way or another — to die.

What's already bad is sure to get worse. In front of our eyes, red-state Republicans are in the process of turning their states into white supremacy fiefdoms. They're imposing feudal rules based on pseudo-religious principles that only they understand. They're fiddling with their legal systems to neutralize voters. They're stocking their courts with accommodating judges. They're putting assault weapons in the hands of assault-minded people. They're no doubt ramping up their privatized prison systems, eagerly anticipating the pipeline of free labor they'll enjoy from those who fall through the cracks in the system. Cracks that will only get wider.

While the culpability of Fox in these developments cannot be overstated, these legislators are, oddly, post-Fox. While they have Fox to thank for the thorough, thirty-year brainwashing of their electorates — which made it oh so easy for them to get elected and stay that way — they seem to have left Fox behind. Their corrupt agendas are rolling out, practically in real time, which is too fast for Fox to keep up with, and too radical for even Fox to be comfortable with.

The people Fox has helped elect in recent years— the creatures for whom it provided endless airtime and shameless cheerleading — have no business in mixed company, let alone running a state. Yet Fox helped them rig the system to the point where they are not removable. They can engage in any form of suppression, subjugate any segment of their populations, and target any institution they can label 'woke' — including the media, including maybe even Fox.

Meanwhile, litigation is the new national pastime. Everyone is lawyering up. Endless time, effort, and expense are going into lawsuits that test the limits of backward laws, and into lawyers who are doing the testing.

This applies, not just to red states, but also to the blue states that are forced to write their own laws in reaction, almost in self-defense. Which is why we see blue states, like Washington and Illinois, not just codifying their reproductive rights, but also openly offering safe haven to people from neighboring states, people who can't get buffoon-free healthcare where they live.

As a result, we'll soon be seeing a rash of state-on-state lawsuits — red states suing blue-state healthcare systems, blue states counter-suing to protect them. The basic rights of a person from a red state are already substantially different from those of the blue state they seek help from. It will take years of litigation to sort this all out.

And the effects of all this litigation go beyond the specifics of the lawsuits. They create a state of mind — a sort of "sue or be sued" mentality — that hurts everyone.

Consider reports that none other than Planned Parenthood is suffering from a growing organizational phobia — call it fear of litigation. In the fraught legal environment surrounding the conflicting abortion laws from state to state, Planned Parenthood has been listening to its lawyers, who see a bottomless pit of interstate lawsuits in its future. This has made the whole organization risk-averse, and distressingly timid about testing the legal waters around abortion practices from one state to another.

Of course, you can see their point. What good is an organization like Planned Parenthood if it can be sued out of existence? Which is what can happen when a litigation free-for-all is triggered by an avalanche of nonsensical but inhumane laws.

As usual, it's Texas leading the way, with its medieval anti-abortion, anti-trans, anti-LGBTQ, anti-Black, anti-woman, anti-book, anti-voter, but staunchly pro-gun legislation.  

And Texas has created the template for the other benighted states to follow. Just in the last few weeks, Idaho, Utah, Arkansas, North Dakota, South Dakota, Iowa, North Carolina, South Carolina, and, of course, Florida have served up a raft of heinous laws in the same vein. Some have even loosened child labor laws, something virtually unheard of in a working democracy.

Taken in aggregate, these laws seek to remake society in ways that only the most repulsive people would want. Over the long haul, the legislatures that remain red will divert state resources, away from healthcare, education, infrastructure, or anything useful, and towards the legal processing of criminals who shouldn't be criminals, through laws that shouldn't be laws.

Taken to its logical conclusion, these fiefdoms won't be able to afford to let their own serfs leave their own states. They'll need to keep them ignorant and docile, which won't happen if the serfs are allowed to just sashay across state lines at will. They might notice how people in reality-based communities live.

And in the benighted states of America, that is not part of the plan.


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