On a recent flight I struck up a conversation with my seat mate, a young very pregnant woman who was heading off to be with her husband, a medical student in his residency. Her home state was Texas and this temporary change of address for the residency was just that, temporary. After the required time away they would be heading back home, understandably.
Somewhere along the way the conversation took an interesting turn, I believe as a result of the interesting political climate of the current campaign year. This young woman, scarcely thirty, I would guess, pronounced her loyalties: “I’m a Republican, but I’ve got some reservations about all this.” So, tell me, what are they?
It soon became clear that she was affiliated by family tradition. And yes, she was a fiscal, free-market conservative. But after that the waters became muddier.
Immigration issues? Ridiculous, said she, our economy is bound up with immigrant labor, legal or otherwise. Find a way to legitimize those here and fast track ways to legally make it possible. Our economy is bound up with that and it’s silly to think otherwise.
Drug trade, drug wars and enforcement? It’s all a supply side problem, and we in the U.S. are the supply. Not with the heavy drugs, but with marijuana legalize it, decriminalize it, tax it, regulate it. Take the market away. We’ve got bigger fish to fry.
Same sex marriage? For God’s sake keep the government out of people’s bedrooms. And give equal rights under law to all citizens regardless. I want that for my many gay friends and their families. This is nature, not nurture. Time to wake up.
And then the flight was over and she was heading to the baby shower. And it occurred to me: Most Americans, most, are much more complexly layered – politically, ideologically, socially, religiously – than we simply portray them with convenient labels. And if we only recognized this diversity of perspective within the mainstream we might actually be able to find solutions to our many challenges.
As it is the extremity pulls us apart, polarizes us, casts us into dark and light, good and bad, friend and foe. I don’t believe that has to be the case, as my soon-to-be-mother seat mate reminded me. There’s hope. But we have to actually talk.