Because I work at TIME, a lot of people ask me what is wrong with American politics. But because I don’t write about politics or talk to the nerds here who write about it, I don’t know anything, which in no way stops me from answering these questions. I also answer questions about what my son is doing in school.
The reason there’s so much dysfunction and gridlock in Washington, I tell people, is honesty. It’s not like the two halves of our country ever got along great, but for a while we had an uneasy compromise, because Southerners refused to join the party of Lincoln. So red Democrats muted blue ones, and rich Northerners, who had no reason to join this weird compromise, became liberal Republicans, muting the red ones. So for 200 years, politicians from the two halves were able to make compromises that were good for everyone except black people. Then, like some great national therapist, Ronald Reagan turned the South Republican by encouraging it to express how it really felt, which ruined everything. Now we fight all the time, and it’s not good for the kids. Half our country watches Fox News, the other half watches MSNBC, and both watch Duck Dynasty but for very different reasons.
We should peacefully break into two countries, one made of red states and one of blue. The red one would still be called the United States of America, since it would otherwise have to alter the lyrics of every song its citizens know. The blue one would be renamed something racially inclusive and exceedingly long and hard to remember. The Exceedingly Long-Named Country would be free to have the laws it has always griped about not being able to pass. Instead of guns, cops would carry Change.org petitions. Strip malls would be full of Planned Parenthood clinics. Recreational drugs would be sold at convenience stores instead of in convenience-store parking lots. It would be a Scandinavia-like country where very few people worked, income was redistributed through taxes and all the citizens lied to one another about which movies they saw.
Once the blue states were their own country, they would develop a greater appreciation for the South, as a foreign country they could visit when Mexico seemed like too much effort and Canada too little. A land filled with charming storytellers so friendly they say “Hi” even though they don’t know you. A place with the best breakfasts in the entire world. Where it’s easy to navigate since everyone speaks English, but figuring stuff out is still a bit of a fun challenge because, after all, it’s not really English. A place where you can shoot guns, drive cars with combustion engines and drink beer that isn’t painfully bitter–all at the same time. Best of all, the vacation would be really cheap. Imagine the fun of paying for your bed-and-breakfast with colorful Southern money. “Two Dolly Partons and one Merle Haggard? That’s like half a Samuel Gompers!” And just like when Northerners visit any other foreign country, if they get sick on vacation, they’ll want to come back home since the hospitals down there definitely won’t take their health care coverage. This split would in no way prevent Southerners from vacationing up North for the same reasons they always have: they have relatives there and have no choice.
The South would serve as a buffer between the North and Mexico, allowing Northerners to pass all the immigration laws they want without actually having any immigrants. They could make environmental treaties with foreign nations about how to extract natural resources, since they’ll have no natural resources anyway. The South, meanwhile, could pass laws every month not to raise its debt ceiling since, let’s face it, no one is going to lend a Southerner money.
One reason people are reluctant to do this, I know, is that they feel it would waste all the hard work done by Abraham Lincoln. Not at all. The Civil War provided vital benefits, such as ending slavery, turning us into a superpower and keeping our dads busy with piles of nonfiction books. But since the Cold War ended, we haven’t had any decent competition and we’ve been slacking. Splitting the U.S. in two will spur us on. We’ll have the two biggest militaries, the two biggest economies and, it’s safe to assume, the two gaudiest flags. Israel will be thrilled to double its number of allies. The Super Bowl will be way more exciting when instead of the AFC playing the NFC, the USA will face off against the Exceedingly Long-Named Country. The Miss America Pageant, however, will be exactly the same, other than having only 25 contestants.
While we work out all the paperwork to separate into two countries, we’ll have to go back to getting along and agreeing to compromise. Because if we keep up with the gridlock in D.C. and the vitriol in our conversations, our breakup is going to be far too acrimonious to allow President Jan Brewer and President Jon Stewart to get along.
This appears in the March 24, 2014 issue of TIME.
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