Thursday’s Walk

Walking my children to elementary school, we pass by a handful of folks out about morning business. We smile at them, and nod. To some, those we know by face or name, we say “good morning.” It’s the Thursday after the Tuesday. According to the morning news reports, emotions are still high. Each of us, nodding to the other, assumes an intimacy of agreement. But I wonder, how many of my neighbors, if we compared notes, would do battle with me? How many think the choice I made last week was wrong?

There’s a growing sense among many that America has become divided into the heartland, and the two coasts. City and country. Various maps floating around the Internet show an America split into three countries, two blue, one red. Some writers have suggested secession, in language that seems only half in jest. Others feel as if the Civil War might have returned.

This is a false view of the division. Indeed, the Red candidate’s best improvement came among urban voters. According to Gallup, his vote share among those city dwellers improved nine percent over his 2000 performance. And those red, rural voters? Six percent fewer voted Red in 2004 than did in 2000. Every community, every state contains people who voted for both presidential candidates.

There’s another map floating around the Internet. It, too, shows how the various states voted by color, mixing red and blue according to the proportions that voters chose Republican or Democrat in the presidential campaign. The map is shades of purple from east to west and north to south. (There is another map that breaks it down by county, too.)

We live cheek by jowl with those “other people.” Those other people are my neighbors, smiling and nodding hello.

Talking to my friends and family, there’s an undercurrent of geopolitical territory marking. We assume, in part because we are told to by clever political analysts, that we all agree with one another in our cohesive bands, that we all touched the same part of the screen in the voting booth. Those who disagree live out in the country, or over in the city. After all, didn’t we all have the same signs on our lawn?

Some of us, though, had no signs at all.

Now, anger remains. From one side, it emerges as hatred. From the other, gloating. Where will this anger go? On the quiet sidewalks of my community, it doesn’t come out as we talk to one another, except insofar as we shake our heads in smug agreement over the half of America who is not present, or as we despise the single American who ran to win against our choice. I’m certain my neighbors and I don’t see eye to eye on everything, but those subjects of disagreement seem to just slip by.

This silence is not the silence of the stifled. It’s a good thing. We live together, and we ought to work together. If we had to, I am sure we could talk about our disagreements. The needs of our community are much closer to home than the vast questions about who voted for whom nationally. Here at home, there are safety problems as people speed through the neighborhood avoiding congestion on larger streets, there are homeless shelters that need my support, there is my school trying its best and fighting what feels sometimes like a losing battle to keep up with all the demands we’ve heaped upon it. All of these are policy questions, driven by political leaders and the decisions they make. But they all have local faces.

A member of my family recently moved to an adjacent neighborhood, and has taken up the habit of a daily walk. He didn’t used to walk so much. He has come to know those he passes by on a daily basis, and likes them. He knows their names, and they his. I bet they don’t argue politics. I bet, if they had to, they could work together to make something happen.

I bet, when you get down to it, they’re purple.

One thought on “Thursday’s Walk”

  1. Jim R., writing from California, sent me this good comment:

    Your piece evoked some interesting thoughts. I didn’t think the election was going to come out the way it did. I had prepared myself to support WHOEVER was elected, and to find good things about him. During the runup to the election, I received some pretty harsh things about both candidates as emails. It occurred to me that we should forward only those things that are good, about whoever the email discusses. The bad emails are usually suspect, “spun”. It may be that the good ones are “spun”, too, but it seems to me maybe less so. Anyway, I intuit that they are maybe a little more genuine than the others. Mostly, I didn’t forward any of those emails, good or bad, mainly because emails are so suspect of being manufactured.

    I appreciate your theme of unity. I was amused at your comment that we are now coasts and midland. I voted differently than my local majority here in California. There’re a lot of us that vote that way here, only just a little less than those who vote the other way, maybe. You can’t color me one way or the other.

    Furthermore, for quite a while, I have been voting for the lesser evil in elections. I am not really enamored of either side, but I just take what seems to me the best available choice. I am a Republican, so-called, but the Republican party got up and walked away from me about twelve or fifteen years ago, and in many cases doesn’t speak for me. So, maybe instead of red, I’m carmine? Purple? Brown? (I don’t think there’s any red in green).Some very interesting observations. I am intrigued by the concern over how easy it is to manufacture emails (and the implicit idea of how easily-accepted such messages can be).

    And, I am certain Jim is not alone in feeling he’s been voting for the “lesser evil” for some time now. Others?

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