Returning:  A divided country in an Election Year


Last Saturday, I was in line at Bed Bath and Beyond. We were consuming a new kitchen appliance, doing our share to feed the economy. It was a busy store with a long line.  Good for people watching and “day dreaming”  An older gentleman passed by. He wore a hat in support of our current President.  Not a red MAGA hat but another hat clearly declaring support.  He came into my view, I stared and he passed by my left shoulder.  As he past, someone behind me said “Nice hat”.  Hmmm…another Trump supporter, he was remarkably similar in appearance.  I desperately wanted to say something, pose a question, respond in some way.  But, I couldn’t and didn’t.  I froze. Too scared to open my mouth. I am so interested in knowing why these two, yes stereotypical Trump supporters, support the current President. It’s so far away from my reality.  Admittedly, I struggle to understand.

I wonder what would have happened had I asked the man in line a question.  What would I ask him?  How would one start the conversation?  I’d like to know why he supports Trump. standing up to the Washington swamp, tough with other countries, can’t stand the “socialists”……..I’m sure these ideas would be parroted, and these themes merit debate and discussion. I wonder whether he has “read the transcript”?   Why does the thought of engaging in a conversation seem so impossible.

Politics have always drawn my interest. There was no shortage of liberal politics in my life growing up. I’ve been a passive observer, with great interest, of elections in the various countries in which I’ve lived. I’ve watched political parties campaigning on the streets of Jakarta, Accra, New Delhi, and Johannesburg.  But my interest in elections as an expatriate in the countries in which I lived was partly an intellectual exercise that I could simply observe.  What I’m about to immerse myself in is very real and it feels of great importance.

I have been well aware of the chasm in US politics for years. I’ve watched from abroad for years and now I’m living within it.  It’s grown wider over the past several decades and continues to widen daily.  American society is a fractured and divided society.  This is what we’ve returned to. Admittedly, I live within an echo chamber of liberal news but occasionally I turn on Fox news to absorb the talking points the other side is being fed. In recent months, culminating now with the impeachment trial, the divisions have grown even wider. We are Locked In.

Honestly, it’s scary.

I do not look forward to the 2020 Presidential campaign. It will be ugly. I fear potential grave consequences lasting decades.  Whether it’s health care, the environment, immigration, the widening wealth gap, foreign policy, war in the middle east, supreme court judges, the budget deficit, or just plain decency, the issues are powerful and the potential consequences dire.

Rhona and I are committed to taking action to support voter turnout in the 2020 elections.  Last Sunday, we canvassed a neighborhood in West Ashville along with 30 other volunteers. We worked with the Indivisible Asheville non-profit organization. We knocked on around 20 doors to check in with them about voting in the 2020 election. We will do the same thing this weekend.  From all reports, canvassing is an effective way to help motivate voters AND we know that voter turnout is the key to elections.  We also know that voter suppression (attempted in many states) essentially targets potential Democratic voters.  This has been the case in Georgia, Florida, North Carolina and current efforts in Wisconsin.   We were glad to participate as canvassers and intend to continue to offer that type of action through the 2020 election.  We have attended various events and we are energized by turnouts and commitment that is in the air.

I would truly like to be able to ask the gentleman in line at Bed Bath and Beyond what issues are most important to him and why he believes these are best addressed by our current President.  I believe we should be able to have that conversation without fear of anger and resentment.  Our current state of partisan politics is dangerous.  We have a society of over-opinionated and under informed individuals and an atmosphere that does not support open exchanges.  Opposing sides are hunkered down, the other side is “the enemy”. That is a sad commentary.  I hope our next President can unify this divided and conflicted nation. I hope we find common ground, find a sense of unity and end the poisonous divisions that currently exist.




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3 thoughts on “Returning:  A divided country in an Election Year

  1. Hi Geoff, Great post. So true. Sadly there are no casual conversations about politics these days. Wonderful that you and Rhona are getting involved. Debra

  2. oh Geoff…I’ve learned that lesson last election when I went to lunch with a client/ who became a friend. She was the grandmother of a child I was seeing. A die hard republican.
    Curiosity …..being curious. That’s the key. You really have to want to know and not convince otherwise.
    This election season I was struck by the reality that these are the conditions in which brothers fought against one another in the civil war. I always wondered how this was possible,….now I’m understanding. Wishing you two spirit to continue to understand. Miss you guys. Sandra Earl(Harrell)

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