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Blue horizons

PRESIDENT BUSH began his second term this week. But liberals should stop looking so blue, no matter how bad they feel. In three years there will be another presidential election -- not that much time to raise money, debate issues, and field candidates -- and the country needs energetic, positive citizens now to start building for the future.

That means extending a welcoming hand to fellow voters in what has been labeled "Red America" -- and not wearing a "Count Me Blue" bracelet while making the gesture.

The bracelets being sold on the Internet are part of what might be considered the grieving process for those who voted for John Kerry. The feeling is understandable, particularly when many people haven't yet let go of the 2000 election -- and some never will.

But a badge boasting divisiveness will not build bridges. "The vote is not over," shouts the "Count Me Blue" website started by New Yorker Berns Rothchild, who invites people to buy a bracelet to express dissent and to "join with others in refusing to give in or give up."

Laura Adams of Fairway, Kan., is selling blue bracelets that say "Hope," while Brenda McKnight and her family in Moscow, Idaho, are selling black bands that say "I Did Not Vote 4 Bush."

Americans love to tell each other exactly where they stand, and responsible protest makes a democracy strong. But the bracelets -- another iteration of the craze started by cyclist Lance Armstrong's yellow bands in support of cancer research -- signal membership in a club that is talking primarily to itself.

More important than making a statement about last November is the need to talk about the future and how people of differing political views might find common ground. That ground might include working to change tax policies favoring wealthy Americans so the country can provide essential services and not burden the next generation with debt.

That ground might include better stewardship of precious natural resources that can never be replaced and the promotion of global policies that would make America more than a feared superpower and expand its role as a leading world citizen.

Dialogues on the polarizing social issues, the separation of church and state, privacy rights, and gun control might also help opposing sides to at least hear each other as individuals rather than as hated manifestos.

Sporting a bracelet, boycotting the American economy on "Not One Damn Dime Day," escaping on a cruise for the inauguration, or joining the "Turn Your Back on Bush" movement during the inaugural parade may have allowed the disenchanted to vent but not to change minds.

America needs to move beyond red and blue and press for a nation united under a bolder, more inclusive vision. 

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