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  • Last modified 68 days ago (Feb. 16, 2017)

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Another Day in the Country

What do you talk about?

© Another Day in the Country

Talk show hosts and commentators are discussing the Great Divide in America and how bifurcated our country seems to be.

They’re right. We are very different from one section of the country to another. This idea of difference is what set me on the path of writing Another Day in the Country in the first place. Whenever I came back to Kansas from California, I was always struck by what it meant to live in the Midwest and how this view of the world shaped our everyday lives.

This difference was at first a novelty. We would come to Ramona and visit our relatives for a couple of weeks. We’d meet the locals, some of them with old family names that I knew from my childhood. We’d listen to their stories, soak up their points of view, and then go back to California and resume our very different lives with a very different group of people with very different ideas.

It wasn’t that coming from California made you different in every way; we still had common interests with our relatives and neighbors.

But while we discovered their differences, they tended not to be curious about ours.

No one asked many questions, period. They pretty much just watched and made assumptions, like we all tend to do.

It took several years of summer visits before Aunt Gertie asked about our lack of church attendance, for instance. We were preacher’s daughters, after all.

I can remember her saying to my sister, “Why, Jessie, what would this world come to if people didn’t go to church?”

She saw church attendance synonymous with reciting the Pledge of Allegiance. She couldn’t understand how people could be good without that moral guidance a church often provides. I could understand her point of view, because where does a child find their moral training if not in Sunday school or at their mother’s knee? Who do we listen to these days?

It takes a level of experience to be wiling and able to discuss our religious and political beliefs with other people, especially if those others don’t believe the same way as we do.

How do you navigate those troubled waters where one person believes in the sanctity of choice over one’s own body and the other believes in the sanctity of life as a religious group interprets it? How do you come to understand a different point of view no matter how that belief is formed, either by dogma, life experience, or scientific evidence? How far do we go in encouraging religious and political freedom when beliefs are so different?

Here we are in an America with so many points of view, so many cultures represented, and needing to find areas that we can agree on. In the past, it seems to me, that it’s taken some outside threat — a war, for instance — for people to come together in protection of our country, our way of life.

Please, let’s not go to war this time. We need to rediscover our common ground, our spirit of cooperation, and it’s imperative that we remind our leaders to do the same so that we don’t have endless internal warfare, either.

I have friends who voted the opposite of me in November. I meet them every week for coffee and exercise, sometimes in reverse order.

Before the election we discussed politics quite often. Afterward, silence reigned.

Last week I finally brought up politics and I asked, “Are you pleased with how things are going?”

My friend said, “I can understand how you feel, Pat, because I’d feel the same if Hillary had won.”

Right off the bat, my friend and I managed to do a couple of things right: I had asked her a “feeling” question, and she let me know she empathized with me.

We started to discuss the kind of health care that people need and discovered that we could agree on that subject. She thought there should be basic health coverage for everyone that was the same.

I laughed and said, “Wouldn’t people scream ‘socialism’?”

And she said, “It needs to be the same plan for the senators in Washington, D.C., too. I figure that would get their attention.”

Sounded good to me.

So, when I got home and my sister said, “What on earth do you guys find to talk about?” I had to admit that these deeper discussions are tricky. Sometimes there are things that people say in conversations, attitudes displayed, that rock me to my core. I have to go deep inside to hang steady, searching for that spot where we can still connect.

Maybe that’s the place to start, that place where we refuse to be fearful of our differences. My friend is praying for our leaders. On the other hand, I believe in speaking out! Eventually there’s got to be a spot where we can find common ground, always keeping in mind that our search is for that greater good.

All this, and the sun still came up on another day in the country.

Last modified Feb. 16, 2017

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