The Hundredth Meridianrnhy Chilton Williamson, ]r.rnDemocracy and thernArt of HandloadingrnSwisli . . . CTcdk —chunk. Swish . . .rncredk — chunk. At the top of the pressrnstroke tlic luhricated brass shell rises intornthe top of the press frame where it is engagedrnb the sizing die, serewed downrnand seenred b- the locking nut. On therndow nstroke it catches momentarily in therndie before the expanding ball does itsrnwork and the shell pidls free with arnwrenching sound, the force straining myrnarm and the ?/8-inch bolts securing thernpress to the table. Swish . . . creak —rnchunk. On the table behind the press arerna couple of wooden travs drilled with 50rnhole,s, ten rows of fie each. The nearestrntra is alread’ nearh filled with decappedrnand resized .270 cartridges waifing to bernprimed and cliarged. No more Americanrnwax to spend a snow Womingrnmorning than listening to Rush I,imbanghrnwhile handloading ammunifion.rn”Is it legal?” a lad’ friend from Manchester,rniMigland, asked when I showedrnher m workbench. Well ves, it is —forrnnow anwa’, despite last ear’s presidentialrnelection, which was not just the w orstrnthing to happen to the country- since thernCi il War, but amounts in fact to a secondrnci il war, this one fought ignobh’ inrnthe courts rather than on the field of battle.rnProm the antage point of AmericarnDescrta. the -ast red continent stretchingrnbetween two thin blue littorals, the 2000rnelection looms larger fiian the electoralrnecjuix alent of the Titanic disaster, w hichrnproduced a more sweeping reform ofrnmarifinie administrative and proceduralrnlaw Hum had e”er occurred before or hasrnsince. I he famous USA Today maprnstarkh portraed a nation comprisingrntwo majorities, geographicalK segregatedrnfrom one otirer and haing far lessrnin connnon between them politiealK.rnphilosophicalK’, mctaphysicalh’, eulturalh,rnand racialK- speaking than the Unitedrnand C-onfederate States of Americarnshared. For the historical moment, thesernmajorities stand ecnh’ poised in influencernand numbers: die Old America in arnMexican standoff with the New . Onernstep bexond that moment — it is nowrnplain to both sides—and it will no longerrnmake any difference that (as Ralph Raicornobserved) vou can drive across Americarnb’ almost any route without passingrnthrough a single count^ that had given itsrnote to Vice President Gore. One step offrnthe balance, and the Old America will berntied down like Gidliver by the New, partlyrnin accordance with the Democrats’rnGolden Rule (he who makes the rulesrngets the gold). And the votes. And thernWestern public lands. And plenh of otherrnthings, including the guns, of course.rnKstablishment commentators havernchosen to interpret the closeness ofrnthe ote as a sign that the Anreriean peoplernreallv aren’t that far apart on thernlarger public issues. So far as I can tell,rnthe truth is exactly opposite. GeorgernBush and Al Gore, in spite of their ‘I’weedledumrnand Tweedledee campaigns,rnstood—or at least, the came to stand —rnfor the Old and the New America respectix’ely,rnwhich explains the impre.ssixe ‘oterrnturnout in certain areas as voters ran tornthe polls (or were driven there by mortuaryrnlimousines, etc.) to enlist as foot soldiersrnin the arm}- of their choice. A reason,rnin fact, wh^ so little of substance wasrndebated during the fall campaign is thatrnso little needed to be made explicit b citlierrncandidate: The voters knew insfiucfirnelv w hat each of these men stood for inrnthe broad ideological sense, where theirrn,smpathics la’, and whether the represented,rnnot Democrat or Republican, butrnFriend or Enemy. As a result, last ear’srnprcsidenfial elechon, beneath a veneer ofrnci’ilit’, in reality was an emotionallyrncliarged battle —as I inferred from thernobvious reluctance of people in die uni-rncrsit- town of Laramie to bring up thernsubject in public. Wdien driven back (explicitKrnor implicitly) upon fundamentalrnassunrptions, politics becomes essenhallyrna religious debate, it finds itself subjectrnto the rules that, respecfing religion,rnhave governed polite soeiet}’ almost sincernthe end of the Ghristian consensus.rnEleefion 2000 will come to be recognizedrnin a variety of waxs as a watershedrnevent. The first is its stunning demonstrationrnthat we really are — to an extentrnthat John Dos Passos couldn’t have imaginedrn—two countries. The fundamentalrndifferentiation is behveen the New Americarnand the Old. 1 he Old America is thernrelaxed America, more or less comfortablernand at peace with itself while preparedrnto make a few improvcnrents andrnto add a few conveniences to its abundantlyrnconvenienced life. It is content tornworship the Ghristian God, follov’ in therntraditional folkways, observe the oldrnforms, encounter the same faces on thernstreet every da, and maintain the existingrnsocial and polifical structures, as wellrnas the exisfing population. As far as governmentrnat every level goes, the OldrnAmerica finally wants to be left alone byrnit—after rendering to Gaesar what is duernhim —and get on wifii living its life onrnthe terms it has been dealt, which it findsrnmosth^ satisfactory and for which it is happ’rnto give thanks. It doesn’t want to makernitself over, or the world, and it believesrnthat its fate —like the world’s —is idtimatel)-rnin God’s hands. T he mobilizedrnAmerica, on the other hand, has no placernfor God in its thinking and believesrnman’s fate is of his own making. Assuredrnthat life finds meaning and significancernin the public, not the personal, sphere, itrntreats even,’ aspect of human experiencernas political and relegates everything politicalrnto the authority of the central state.rnGonvinced that man is perfectible in thisrnworld rather than the next, and that perfecfibilit}’rnis a necessary funcfion of time,rnit envisions a glorious future w hose realizationrnis die highest moral imperafivc.rnIn the mobilized society nothing is takenrnfor granted, nothing assured, nothing sacred,rnor even safe. Instead, everything existingrnis suspect, cvePi’thing provisionary,rnnothing of absolute value, nothing secure,rnand nothing unchanging, exceptrnchange. On behalf of change, society isrnendlessly exhorted and closely regimentedrnwhere opinion and personal behaviorrnFEBRUARY 2001/49rnrnrn