Looking at a current political map of "Red" and "Blue" states one cannot help but notice an uncanny resemblance to a war map of 150 years ago when the Union faced the Confederacy. East of the Mississippi River, we see once again, a face off between the industrialized, free North (represented by blue) versus the agrarian, slave-holding, South (then in grey, now in red).
The metaphor is made even stronger when one considers that the "Northern" presidential candidate is an African-American from the same state as Abe Lincoln. In addition, the gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender community, which may now be seen as holding the same despised social position as blacks did in Civil War times, hopes that the relatively benign views of the Lincolnesque Democrats of today will prevail.
Historians will also recall that Lincoln did not at first fully endorse emancipation. Only the protracted war pushed him to that moral position. Similarly, Obama did not, at first, articulate a "1 percent vs. 99 percent" world view. Now he does.
A major difference between the political conflict of today and the military conflict of yesteryear is, of course, that women now have the right to vote. West Virginia women undeniably represent the backbone of West Virginia families. Distant or absent dads may have enjoyed the experience of initiating a family, but once present, the kids are -- generally speaking -- pretty much raised by moms and grandmas. Working West Virginia mothers are unlikely to be neutral in today's political contest. They can see that their children will have a considerably better chance in life if the views of the ("Northern") Democratic Party prevail.
Another major difference between then and now is that the landscape of western Virginia had not been substantially altered by coal mining. During the war, coal ran the railroads that helped the North eventually win, but the underlying geology was not much affected. That has changed. We now have passionate green advocates in West Virginia. They are grimly dedicated to getting out the word that West Virginia's imperiled water is worth more than its coal and gas combined.
These greens are, of course, well aware that West Virginia's problems are a microcosm of the world's. "Climate change will make ... challenges more daunting. Higher temperatures and violent weather will stunt or destroy crops. Increased flooding will imperil millions ... . More severe droughts could displace masses of people ... . By 2050 ... there could be as many as 200 million 'climate refugees'," the Gazette wrote Aug. 5.
Pundits on both sides have ceded West Virginia to the Red team, but I'm not so sure.
They may be counting on lingering racism, but we have recently celebrated a crooning African-American "Idol" from Southern West Virginia. They may suppose that West Virginia's traditional support for the military will benefit the Red team, but many are aware that Mr. Romney got four Vietnam deferrals, including one as a Mormon missionary to France. They may think West Virginia women are still indoctrinated to walk three footsteps behind their men, but women have led most of the activism mentioned. They may believe that the hate preached from some pulpits will have an effect, but apparently forget that when a hate-mongering Tennessee "church" came to town, signs sprouted everywhere saying "West Virginia is no place for Hate."
A long and painful political process resulted in the creation of West Virginia 150 years ago. Then, people of this region sided with the downtrodden against the julep drinking, whip-wielding planters. West Virginia did the right thing 150 years ago. I believe we will again!
Palmer, of Charleston, is retired and is a substitute teacher.