by Clarence Brown
American Reporter Correspondent
SEATTLE, Wash. -- Here is an exercise in translation. Suppose the U.S.A were something like Iraq. Could we draw a sort of cultural map?
First of all, there would be the ethnic and religious divisions. Let us say that the Native Americans had not been oppressively reduced to little tribal communities called reservations with all but mythical treaty rights to their land.
Let us suppose that they were a third of the national population and that they controlled not only their lucrative casinos and fishing rights but also certain cities, such as Seattle, Portland, and Coeur d'Alene, with vast amounts of associated territory in the Northwest.
They would find it useful to continue their ramshackle treaty obligations with the distant government in Washington, D.C., in spite of having been gassed and otherwise chemically mistreated the last time they tried to assert their so-called rights. Canada has shown a great interest in them.
Let us suppose that Basque shepherds in the Upper Midwest had done more than herd sheep and win all the local elections, and that their number had swollen to a significant fraction of the U.S. population, making the Basque lobby in the national capital one of the most feared, and thus effective.
On Dupont Circle, late at night, a curved knife, normally used for castrating rams, if held at the throat, to the accompaniment of threats in an incomprehensible language, can be a powerful vote getter.
Then there are the African Americans, whose leaders have recently jettisoned this name. It was doubly hateful to them for having been promoted by one Rev. Jackson, a minister of the now detested Christian faith.
They have opted for what they say is the more beautiful, less apologetic, and more authentic name: Africans. They were once confined more or less to the South, that amorphic region preceding the War Between the States.
They then settled largely in the metropolitan areas of the North, where they were ritually insulted by the locals, who were surprised by their wearing shoes and being able to read. Now, in this imaginary America, they have all fled back to their original homeland - not Africa, of course, but the South.
In this map of America with its red Northwest and its black Southeast there are little enclaves of racial and cultural power that exceeds even that of the Basques.
There are the French of the lower Mississippi Delta, who prefer to be known as Cajuns, whose insidious subversion of national unity has been largely culinary in character. It is the first known instance of insurrection by indigestion. The national government has sprayed the whole region with Pepto-Bismol, to little effect, aside from the vaguely pink tint of the Gulf of Mexico.
Then there are the Germans of the Upper Midwest, the small but obstreperous and annoyingly erudite Finns of the Upper Peninsula of Michigan, the vast Latino lands along the southern coast from Alabama to California... .
But you get the point.
To continue the opening question: Now that we've drawn the map, can we govern it?
Clarence Brown is a cartoonist, writer, and Professor Emeritus of Comparative Literature at Princeton University.