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Posts Tagged ‘commonalities’

Chaos and Calm

Photo: Acerting Art/YouTube
Sturm und Drang

Can’t help thinking that whatever adds to the current chaos is bad for everything — people, creatures, trees, air. Throughout history and mythologies, chaos is generally not considered a good thing.

What to do?

I like people who seek calm and who, when enmity is abroad in the land, try harder to find commonalities.

Yesterday as I was reading an advice column in the Globe, I saw a situation I recognized. A reader was upset that on social media, her hair stylist had criticized a politician she supports, and she was thinking of switching to a different salon. Maybe even telling her stylist the reason.

To the columnist’s credit, she didn’t think much of her reader’s rigidity.

But I recognized that thought process. Four years ago, I experienced some of the same impulses after reading a social media post. Fortunately, I came out safe on the other side. It didn’t seem like leaving my stylist would have been the action of a grownup, making a break with someone that I liked, that I shared many common interests with, that I never discussed politics with anyway. If I couldn’t build a bridge to someone I enjoyed talking to about recipes, children, Halloween costumes, nature, museums, and elephants, how could I (or the country) ever move beyond the point where we seem so stuck?

And there are other things to consider. I could afford to leave. I had options. She couldn’t afford to find a different job if she wanted to get away from the high percentage of clients whose politics opposed hers. She needed the income.

Another thought: shouldn’t that advice-column reader and I both be thinking about why hairdressers might have the kind of lives and experiences that make them gravitate toward a different kind of candidate or listen to a different kind of station for news? Who am I to say what this hardworking single mom’s life experience tells her?

A writer I admire who has lived on both sides of the current divide has been doing a great job of explaining one side to the other. Her name is Sarah Smarsh, and I heartily recommend the book that introduced me to her, Heartland: A Memoir of Working Hard and Being Broke in the Richest Country on Earth.

I also appreciated her insights in this recent Guardian article about the presidential election, and I’m on my library’s waiting list for her upcoming book on Dolly Parton, She Come By It Natural. Get to know her.

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Photo: Christa Case Bryant/Christian Science Monitor
Krista Badiane, a sustainability consultant, is raising two daughters with her Senegalese husband in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She always imagined settling on the East or West Coast but says it would be hard to recreate the quality of life they have in Michigan.

The country is divided, or so commentators tell us over and over. Sometimes I wonder if it’s exaggerated. Many of us make a point of enjoying all the things we have in common with folks whose politics seem to be different.

In a recent article, we also learn that when people start living side-by-side with those who have a different world view, benefits rub off in both directions.

Christa Case Bryant writes at the Christian Science Monitor, “Aaron Ofseyer and his wife, Anne Rosenbaum, planned on staying a few years, but eight years later they’re still in Grand Rapids. They’ve bought a house, had two children, joined a synagogue, gotten library cards, and are regulars at cultural events. Like many transplants from costly coastal cities, they find Grand Rapids to be welcoming and affordable. …

“Ofseyer and Ms. Rosenbaum also like the diversity of political viewpoints that gets them out of their liberal bubble. When they eat out in hip neighborhoods, they sometimes look over to see fellow diners praying or holding a Bible study group.

“ ‘We’re forced to confront people who are different than us … [and] even though politically you might have a different frame of reference, there’s way more that unites us than divides us politically,’ says Ofseyer. …

“Across the country, young professionals are carving out a new niche in second-tier cities where their wages go further. Most are seeking a more affordable lifestyle, as well as a stronger sense of community and the opportunity to make more of an impact. That this movement is largely from Democratic-run cities to conservative corners of the country raises questions over what political values may emerge, and whether it’s possible to find common ground in a hyper-partisan era. …

“Says Joel Kotkin, executive director of the Houston-based Center for Opportunity Urbanism, ‘It’ll be interesting to see whether we see a new politics, which combines some of the social values of the blue states with some of the cultural beliefs of the red states,’ like religion, community, and self-sufficiency. …

“Among young professionals who do migrate, there is a strong desire for community, says Anne Snyder, a writer and scholar who studies civil society in small and mid-sized cities. Their formative years were shaped by disillusionment with politics and distrust of institutions such as marriage.

“ ‘I think Millennials are just so hungry – hungrier than their predecessors were – to experience the sense of belonging that I think is a timeless need and desire, and have not wound up finding it in their national political expression,’ says Ms. Snyder, a millennial herself.

“That makes the social-media generation less ideological and eager to make a practical contribution wherever they live. ‘The things that matter most are serving your community, people in the flesh,’ she says.”

More at the Christian Science Monitor, here. I’d love to hear how you maintain friendly relations across real or perceived political divides in your world.

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