Don’t worry ladies. No one is being outed. 😉
I do not write about politics, so if my title grabbed your attention thinking it was one more blogger issuing a heated verbal blast about the coming election, I’m sorry to disappoint you.
I write about community. About friendship. About finding that elusive thing called ‘meaningful connection’ in a city known for being “nice, but aloof.”
Last week my neighborhood book club met to discuss An American Dervish. It’s a first novel by Ayad Akhtar about a Pakistani-American family circa 1980s set in Milwaukie, Wisconsin, and their varied levels of devoutness and personal experiences with their Muslim faith and how it impacted their individual and collective lives. It’s an excellent read, and I highly recommend it. And it definitely launched a great discussion.
From that discussion, our conversation led to Muslims in the Middle East to Muslims in America to racism to the current state of American politics. And then, of course, to Hillary and The Donald.
In my book club we have Republicans who would just as soon stick a needle in their eye before they would vote for Donald Trump for president.
In my book club we have pretty ardent Democrats who, while disappointed Bernie didn’t get the nomination, will still lean into Hillary.
In my book club we have people who think Hillary is awful. In my book club we have people who think Hillary is great.
In my book club we have someone who thinks it might be time to launch a “Middle” party. People who swing neither left nor right, who will develop a platform of “I know we disagree, but I bet we can agree on enough to get the country moving forward again.”
In my book club, we have patriots. In my book club, we have ex-patriots living here from overseas who are not yet citizens and will not vote in November, but are taking it all in nonetheless.
In my book club we are friends and all viewpoints are welcome. In my book club we don’t try to change another person’s opinion or viewpoint, even if we decidedly disagree. Rather, we say “I hear what you’re saying and I respect that, I would also just say that from where I sit I believe ……(fill in the blank)”.
When you’re friends, when you invest the time to be more than people who pass at the mailbox, you should be able to engage in conversations about varying viewpoints without repercussion. That should be our norm. And while our US Congress and so much of our current political system seems to have forgotten this, we don’t have to. And where we live, in our neighborhoods, is where much of real life truly happens. I believe we can reclaim the American ideal of pluralism right in our living rooms. We can be passionate about, respect and contribute to real conversation, sharing in the give and take of different ideas and ideals with one another, and not simply be yet another fire hose of acidic opinion on social media.
I love the women in my neighborhood book club. We are diverse in our convictions, faith practices, family histories and, yes, in our politics. But we have a commonality of community, of friendship, of knowing what’s really important. We understand and practice respect.
I may sound like a broken record, but I highly recommend starting or joining a neighborhood book club. It is a fantastic way to move toward and invest in one another and build real friendships with those who live in close proximity. A book club is a place for ideas to be shared and discussed. A place to disagree without fear of being labeled. A place to be known. A place to be accepted.
A neighborhood book club is an ideal place to thwart The Seattle Freeze. And maybe, just maybe, it’s also a great place for us move toward one another and lean into sometimes difficult conversations. And perhaps if enough of us do this, together we’ll discover new ideas, rather than just develop new arguments, about how to solve some of the daunting issues that are ailing our local communities as well as our great country.
And, together, we can find a positive, healthy way forward.