Over the past few years we have been instructed that the secret to maintaining important relationships in such turbulent times is to just don’t talk politics with family, friends, neighbors and coworkers. Only if it was this simple!
Have those who offered this advice actually tried to do this themselves? If they would have they might have discovered that it is nearly impossible to do so.
Nearly every subject within America has become politicized, polarized, and poisoned to such an extent that the public lives in two different realities. And these two different Americas increasingly have two different sets of news, facts, history, culture, norms, values, and aspirations.
The sad state of affairs in the US is that to avoid unproductive conflict you can’t talk about politics, but also current affairs, sports, entertainment, arts, education, weather, science, health care, economics, travel, and of course religion. Each of these topics have been polluted by not just different opinions, which one can learn to respect, but different facts, which no amount of rational reasoning seems to have an affect.
How does one survive much less flourish in such a culture?
I have fallen back on what I learned as an international traveler some years ago. When I am traveling in a foreign land with norms and customs that I do not understand, much less a language I can not speak, I act humbly as a guest and observer. One who as a stranger has no standing to vigorously debate a subject that would result in changing no one’s mind or provide any sense of satisfaction.
That is how I feel about American life these days. I have become a stranger, if not estranged, in a strange land that I no longer understand nor recognize as my own home land.
Now this may sound depressing, and it often is. Yet, if I reframe my situation as an opportunity for an aspiring travel writer that can no longer travel because of the pandemic, then where else in the world at this moment in time is as interesting and challenging to chronicle? Especially as a blue speck in the red sea of a conservative state in the heartland of the USA during the early 21st century.
I only pray for the stamina and talent to continue to bear witness and do it all justice.