Is small-town America surprisingly tolerant, or just superficially polite? Readers respond to Garrison Keillor's "Turning a Red State Bright Orange."

By Salon Staff
August 27, 2005 12:00PM (UTC)
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[Read "Turning a Red State Bright Orange," by Garrison Keillor.]

I have loved Garrison Keillor since I was introduced to his work in college. I love his "down-home" perspective and wisdom. And I think that the point he makes in this piece is a valid point. People can accept people who are different from them on a one-on-one basis. However, I have to disagree with his assertion that the red/blue divide is B.S. The problem is that the side in power is trying to legislate their morals. They are trying to tell other people how they can live in their homes, in their bedrooms, with their children. In that respect, the red/blue divide is very real and problematic. Person by person, conservative Republicans are not bad people. But as a political party advancing a platform of religious laws, they are a destructive force.


-- Shelly McLain

I hope Garrison Keillor didn't actually think his barbecue rumination was an essay on the virtues of tolerance. The message was shockingly clear: Come, bring your exotic local color to our fine family-values enclave -- just play by our rules, don't talk about yourself or your interests, and then go back home before you infect our children with your rebellious streak.

Veiled judgment like this does nothing to forward the idea that red/blue is an illusion. All it serves to do is remind us Orangists why we stay in Los Angeles in the first place.


-- Rich Pizor

Hear, hear!

I grow tired of red/blue skirmishing at approximately the same as I get frustrated with the war in Iraq. In my dream world, Keillor's article appears on the front page of every major newspaper in the country. Above the fold.


Let's bring the troops home. Let's love our neighbor.

-- Mike Palmer

You mean red and blue staters can unite around a young woman making a holy show of herself? Surprise, surprise. You don't have to be a liberal guy to enjoy leering at an exhibitionistic gal. Lots of conservative guys get a kick out of doing that, too. It is a great American pastime, beloved of males of both the right and the left. And of course, the banal event you describe needed some brightening up, I'm sure. All that down-home goodness (yawn), and bonding over pig meat. But still there are grumps like me, an older woman of the liberal persuasion, who think making oneself the center of attention with odd dress and silly behavior is a sign of poor breeding. I'm not inviting that gal to my parties.


-- Marianna Scheffer

I really enjoyed almost all of Garrison Keillor's most recent piece on trying to find harmony in a divided nation. It was just as sweet and whimsical as Keillor ever gets.

But sadly, the spell was badly broken by his last two sentences. It seemed like Keillor wanted to show off his way with words, and he doesn't really give much of a damn about the feelings of those who don't like eating meat. I love barbecue myself, but I can't understand what possible point he was trying to make.


-- Edson C. Hendricks

I appreciate Mr. Keillor's pronouncement that flamboyance and fun are "not a problem" in most communities. I would love to believe him, but unfortunately I think he's wrong.

While the friendly attendees of the pork barbecue welcomed the exciting lady in orange, I don't believe the same would have happened had she waltzed in with a girl on her arm. Nor do I believe would they have accepted a male same-sex couple no matter how "normal" they appeared to be. As soon as the couples held hands or kissed, actions that are completely within the realm of normal public displays of affection, the crowd would most likely have turned against them, possibly violently. I have not been everywhere, but in almost every city I have either visited or lived in, I have heard derogatory comments on my sexuality. Even in Santa Cruz, Calif., a vastly liberal town, men yelled nasty comments at my boyfriend and me as we held hands walking down the street. I have seen and felt the same things in Sacramento, San Diego, St. Louis, and Washington D.C.; people don't want same-sex couples to exist. These are not small towns; in small towns, and I would only expect worse, judging from the number of instances of gay and lesbian people being beaten and murdered around the country.


Maybe Mr. Keillor is right on one point, though: Red state or blue, huge similarities exist among most Americans. It just seems they will tolerate only a certain level of orange in their visitors. Those who push too far may be maligned, or beaten and murdered.

-- Stephen Potts

Salon Staff

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