mis-redOne of the narratives that emerged from that last presidential election described a split between, on the one hand, a rural middle America that hewed to traditional values and patriotism, and on the other hand a leftist, elitist, urban northeast and western coast that rejected the same values. I know, gag me with a reductionist spoon.
So: Fascinating report in this week's Army Times (it's a Gannett paper, not an army publication) on American military deaths in Iraq. As of Oct. 26, 213 Californians had died in combat while serving in the U.S. armed forces in Operation Iraqi Freedom. California leads the nation in this deeply unfortunate distinction; the state with the next-highest number of combat deaths is Texas, with 177. More interesting still is the map of the United States showing a red dot for each American servicemember killed in Iraq; the very large, very red blotch of ink covering coastal Southern California is the largest on the map by a very wide measure. (And deaths are mapped by hometown of servicemembers, not by service station; the red blotch in question is not a function of Camp Pendleton's location.)*
Also noted in the Thursday issue of USA Today (in a graphic on the front page of the "Life" section, unaccompanied by a story), are the states with the largest population of military veterans in the nation. California again leads the way with 2.3 million veterans -- a far higher number than the next two states on the list, Florida (1.8 million veterans) and Texas (1.7 million veterans).
So California, ladies and gentleman, clearly leads the nation in the embrace of traditional American values and patriotism. Far more of us have worn the uniform of our nation's armed forces than those patriotically indifferent folks in Texas, where they must eat a whole lot more brie than they're willing to admit. Measured objectively, California is the very reddest state of all. Right?
Or maybe the division of the country into red states and blue states with wholly different values is kind of full of shit.
(*The numbers by percentage of population are fascinating for a whole different reason. By far the heaviest toll in U.S. military combat deaths incurred in Operation Iraqi Freedom have been those of American Samoa, at 8.63 deaths per 100,000 residents. Next down the list of the top five are the Virgin Islands, Vermont, Micronesia, and South Dakota. The Marianas Islands also make the top ten.)