Michael Shea, dismayed over the Bush, er um, victory in the 2004 election, made sure to shave off his grundgy-looking beard and get a haircut before he, with a documentary camera crew, traveled to 22 red states, the better to understand why so many inhabitants re-voted him into the presidency.
Sam Seder, co-host of The Majority Report on Air America calls the resulting documentary, Red State, "Eye opening and scary for those who think America could never become a theocracy."
Shea told me that, "While I began the trip feeling that the Bush administration was craven, cynical and dangerous, I didn't believe that their average supporter fully shared their views. But I learned that there really are many people in this country who don't believe in the Constitution and want to see it replaced by their version of the Bible. And they are very organized. What surprised me the most is that I could really get along with these red staters as people."
It was a challenge, though. Take, for example, the following snippet from his dialogue with Gladys Gill in Jackson, Mississippi:
"I think we lost more than we gained with civil rights," she says. "I hope to see them repealed....I don't know where you folks were when we were trying to hang on to states' rights."
"I was two, I think. In fact, I was born in the year the Civil Rights Act was passed."
"Yeah, right. So you don't remember what life was like when we had liberty to do what we needed to do in our own lives."
Ms. Gill is the state director of Concerned Women for America.
Michael Shea told me, "My aim is to introduce the thoughts and feelings of average radical Republicans to people who may not have been exposed to these ideas before."
See www.redstatethemovie.com for further information.
His statement in the closing scene sums up how he was changed in the process of shooting it:
"I was very moved by the experience of interacting with all of these people. Their concern for their community and the naton was at times quite humbling. But I'm also heading home experiencing a more funadamental feeling--fear. I'm afraid. I've become certain that there are many people in this country who want to tell the rest of us how to live. Who want this country to be governed exclusively by Christians who think that the 10 Commandents and the Bill of Rights are one and the same.
"That truly worries me. One of the founding principles of this nation was relgious freedom, but it seems to me that these people are engaged in a sort of religious tyranny. So, the truth is that I've had a far more complicated experience on this trip than I woud have ever imagined. I feel that these people are worthy of respect, and yet I feel that if they get their way America will cease to be America."