Opinion — Let’s talk about something other than politics

Published 5:07 pm Friday, November 5, 2021

When you read these words, the 2021 election will be over and the outcomes known unless, heaven forbid, a race is so close that it takes a few days to sort out.

Now, can we talk about the weather? Anything but politics?

Tish Harrison Warren, a Texas minister who writes a weekly newsletter on faith, suggests a little apolitical banter in our everyday encounters as a prescription for a country so bitterly divided.

She cites a poll by the University of Virginia’s Center for Politics showing that 75% of Biden voters and 78% of Trump voters believe that their political opponents “have become a clear and present danger to the American way of life.” More than half of Trump voters and some 41% of Biden voters actually support splitting the country in two, ending this grand experiment of a constitutional republic before it even turns 300. Forgive us, Mr. Jefferson.

Even this pundit, a lifelong political junkie, needs a break from politics, if just for a few days. I came of age in an era when politics was a sport, not a bloodsport. You could talk politics at a cocktail party, trade some good-natured jabs with someone who supported a different candidate, and still be friends. A political centrist and fierce independent, I enjoyed listening to more partisan friends go at it because I knew neither took it personally. Credit the bourbon, perhaps, but the night always ended with a hug or a handshake.

These days, talk politics in social circles and you just might lose a friend. A Times reader confided to me in a recent email that he or she was friends with a neighbor until the neighbor’s recent change from conservative/liberal (fill in the blank) beliefs to the opposite political persuasion. How far we’ve sunk, not just as a country but as a society.

The Texas minister is right: We need to talk more about the weather and less about politics.

To that end, parents and kids had a ball in our neighborhood Sunday as Halloween festivities returned from a one-year COVID hiatus. Better Half remarked that the scene was Mayberry-like. I compared it to a Rockwell painting, except more diverse. Young and old, black and white, rich and poor came together and had fun. If a political word was uttered the entire night, I didn’t hear it.

“There is a profound political and spiritual need to see our ideological opponents as, first and foremost, humans like us,” Harrison Warren wrote. “The future of American society really does depend on two people who believe wildly different things having the ability to have a pleasant conversation about the weather and walk away with the feeling that they are each a little less alone.”

Sunday’s forecast, by the way, is 60 and sunny.

Steve Stewart, a former Kenbridge-Victoria Dispatch publisher, is senior vice president of Boone Newspapers and publisher of The Smithfield Times. His email address is steve.stewart@smithfieldtimes.com.