I was surprised to read about the rioting, much of it with a racist edge, on the Ole Miss campus after Obama’s re-election. Just a few months ago I was there, watching my parents and daughter walk through the memorial to James Meredith, the black student who began the process of racial integration at Ole Miss 50 years ago. It makes me cringe to see new fodder for those who are all too ready to dismiss the South as a bastion of racism and ignorance. This even though, from what I remember, my liberal college in Connecticut was out in full mourning the day after Bush was re-elected, with plenty of unsavory talk about moving to Canada, preventing ‘stupid’ people from voting, and the like.
In the week since this year’s election, I have been congratulated by many Britons when they hear my accent, as they assume both that I am American and that I voted for Obama. I have gotten plenty liberal since leaving my home state, but one of the things I miss most about it is the way that, in a state with strong red and blue tendencies, people were not too quick to assume they knew you or your voting tendencies. I wish more people in the ‘enlightened’ places to which I’ve traveled would do the same, so as to keep the door open for a real discussion, rather than patting each other on the back.