ANOTHER DAY IN THE COUNTRY: Beginning a discussion
© Another Day in the Country
I changed television channels recently and ran into David Letterman on a new show that he’s doing for Netflix.
It aired for the first time in January, and his first guest was former President Barack Obama. He and Dave were chatting about what it was like for the two of them to have “lost” jobs that were very meaningful and then go on with the rest of their lives.
Dave was obviously doing a new format, interviewing people without the trappings of a big show. Obama said he was working with an institute training young leaders — always our hope for the future.
Dave mentioned how discouraged he’d been, and the President made an interesting statement. He said something about American’s “being in a bubble,” which is a subject I’ve expounded on every once in a while, how people tend to isolate themselves from folk who think differently than they do, and how that isolation is detrimental to our society.
Since this is a subject that I’m always interested in, I turned up the volume and paid closer attention. Obama said, for instance, that if you are a person that listens primarily to FOX News and another person listens to National Public Radio that “you live in two different worlds.” He said, in essence, that as a nation we really need to get out of our own personal bubbles, widening our understanding of our neighbors across the street or in another state.
While I believe that “widening our understanding of our neighbors” is a really good idea, it’s not an easy thing to accomplish.
I decided to start with relatives instead of neighbors. When you are kin, you have more common ground. So, I started with my cousin’s kids. They are several generations younger and I wanted to hear their opinions.
My sister and I see them pretty often. At least once a week we get together for supper and sometimes we play games afterward. Always the conversation is active around the table.
These people have known me for years. They already know areas where I’m “quirky” and they still love me. This is a pretty safe place, it seems, to explore differences.
After supper, once the table was cleared, I said to the man of the house, “I want to ask you some questions about a touchy subject. Can you explain to me what your opinion is on gun control?”
My sister pushed herself back a little from the table. She sighed. What she was pretty much saying by her body language was, “Did you really need to bring this subject up?”
“Sure,” came the answer from across the table, and then he began to tell me pretty much what I’d expected to hear about a man’s need to protect his family and how the need of a gun was pretty much standard in rural life.
“But how many guns do you need?” I asked.
“Do they need to be assault weapons?”
“How much training should be required?”
“What limitations on gun ownership should there be?”
We talked about guns for quite a while, this young farmer and I. He brought a couple of them out of the gun case to show them to me. Obviously, he was proud of them, comfortable in his proficiency.
I confessed that I hadn’t had much experience, “other than b-b guns to scare off stray cats,” I said. “And that didn’t always work out well.”
Others at the table were very uneasy as we talked. Later, as we went out the door to go home, he apologized to my sister for making her uncomfortable.
“It’s okay,” she said, “I know we have to talk about this subject. We have to find some common ground that makes sense.”
We drove home and I was thinking again about Dave’s interview with our ex-president. They talked about how they both had been influenced by the Midwest. I hadn’t realized that Obama’s mother had lived in Kansas as a child.
“I’m grateful,” he said, “for those Midwestern values that I inherited,” and he went on to list them: honesty, kindness, hard work, and the desire to make the world a better place.
Listening, I was reminded to be proud of my Kansas heritage and those values I, too, inherited from my farming family.
It’s another day in the country, and I’m wondering, “Do we still have those same Midwestern values and are we teaching them to our children? Especially the one about making the world a better place!”
Last modified March 14, 2018