(As an FYI, when I write something, I start it on paper in a rough form and then work with it. This is an early draft and may only slightly resemble the finished piece.)
Different Spokes for Different Folks
After a recent political exchange on Facebook, a Trump-supporting friend of mine said of my cousin, a Clinton supporter, “Truly in a different world you are.” He doesn’t know how right he is.
Author Terry Pratchett created the fantasy world of Discworld, a flat disc balanced on the backs of four elephants which in turn stand on the back of a giant turtle. O-kay. The world I want to offer and explain is a lot easier to understand and accept. Whether or not you can suspend your disbelief, please accept and try to understand it.
Imagine if you would a world that looks kind of like a typical bicycle wheel on its side, horizontal to the ground. There is a large hub in the center and all those spokes radiating out to the wheel. The center hub is a place where people can leave their spoke, go in to, and gather and meet, a communal area of sorts. And people, if they wish, can move out from the center into different spokes in additional to their own.
I have often said that we are all unique individuals, a product of everything that has come before – every friend, movie, song, TV show, spoke we lived in and visited, etc. Where we were born and raised and the people inhabiting and surrounding our upbringing all contributed immensely as well.
Today, I am in this world but not of this world. I was born and raised in a middle-class suburban spoke of Boston, a hot bed of liberalism. My family heritage and education were emphasized. There was never even a question about going to college – it was expected, something many (most?) people there just did because that’s what people there did. Dating in those days encompassed going out to dinner, movies, miniature golf, museums, concerts, plays, lectures, motorcycle rides, and the like.
There was an accepted progression then toward growing up and settling down: we looked at girls, dated girls, eventually got serious about a girl, got engaged, got married, and started a family that would include 2.5 children, a dog, and a nice home in the suburbs. That was pretty much the way it was back then. (In 1960 there were 1,523,000 marriages and 393,900 divorces. In 2011, there were 2,818,000 marriages and 877,000 divorces. [I am not sure what that signifies, but it sounded cool to include.])
When I finished my first round of college, I began looking for a teaching job. Everyone I interviewed with wanted experience, which I as a new graduate didn’t have, so I ended up taking a job up in central NH where I planned to stay for a couple of years and get that experience so I could return to the Flatlands, I moved from my familiar spoke to a rural central New Hampshire spoke, a totally different world from what I was used to. It was truly another world, and, as it turned out, I remained there (here) for some 43 years (as of this writing). While for the most part, for better or worse, once we get below the surface, people are pretty much people anywhere, but in this other spoke? In many ways, people are as different as night and day.
When I got to New Hampshire, it was culture shock. It was like stepping into the past, which might explain why I am still here. I found a slower pace, a place where the people pretty much kept to themselves, yet if one needed help, they’d be the first ones there en masse. My brother asked me at one point what it was like living in New Hampshire. I summed it up by saying if I wanted a sweater, I could buy one. If I wanted, say, a long-sleeve navy v-neck (in style at the time), I’d have to order it through a catalog (Sears, Montgomery Ward, or J.C. Penney).
In the early 70s, conservatism ruled the spoke to my north. Based on what it was back then, when I got here I never thought I’d live long enough to see a Democrat elected to anything let alone a woman. In 1999, 26 years later, the state was the first in the nation to have a female governor (and a Democrat at that), and in 2012, NH was the first state to boast an all-female delegation. New Hampshire had morphed into a blue state. By 2014, NH had voted Democratic in five of the previous seven presidential elections.
The current election, however, has polarized the state as I have never seen before. In the past there was usually civil discussion and civil disagreement but not this time. I have lost the feeling that anything can be debated. What we now have are two of the most disliked, unpopular candidates ever, but what seems to be the prevailing “wisdom” is that they are the only two candidates. One friend said he’d vote for Trump while holding his nose. Others will vote for Clinton because Trump (and vice-versa). They are both majorly flawed candidates, but there are other choices.
As I have posted before, you are presented with three doors. One is marked colon cancer and the other is marked lung cancer. Which would you pick? People struggle with this, but no one considers the third door. So it is with the election. There is a third choice (and more) I am again willing to try because we know what the other two doors are.
Every election cycle, we hear promises and glittering generalities, and, like Charlie Brown and the football the newly elected politicians always seem to pull a gotcha. In case you missed it, the characters involved in the gag are comic-strip character Charlie Brown and Lucy van Pelt. Lucy tells Charlie Brown that she will hold a football while he kicks it. Charlie Brown usually refuses to kick it at first, not trusting Lucy. Lucy then says something to persuade Charlie Brown to trust her. Charlie Brown runs up to kick the ball, but at the very last second before he can kick it, Lucy removes the ball and Charlie Brown flies into the air, before falling down and hurting himself. The gag usually ends with Lucy pointing out to Charlie Brown that he should not have trusted her. it turns out the same every time pretty much just like politics!
It happened to Charlie Brown for the first time in 1952 (the first time by Lucy) and has occurred no fewer than 45 times. You would think he would learn. You would think we would learn. Seriously, election after election, we hear this time will be different, but it really never is.
Even though we all inhabit the same wheel but in different spokes, we are still worlds apart. Because of my upbringing and background, I may not care for others’ points of view, but I respect and accept them. I do not resort to bullying and name-calling or pick fights as others seem to regularly do (which matches well with their candidate).
Here’s the thing – I was brought up in my spoke by two wonderful parents with great values and who were always there for me (more than I was for them when I was younger). They taught me to respect others (and myself), good manners (leading one person to ironically describe me as ‘the man with impeccable manners’), the importance of education, and the like. They always had my back even if I didn’t understand or think so at the time.
And then I came to and ultimately settled in the New Hampshire spoke. It is important to understand that what follows is in no way judgmental even though it may sound that way in parts. It is not that one spoke is better or worse than the other – they are simply different.
People here have different values. In my 43 years here, I have never been on a snowmobile (except once to go a few hundred feet down a driveway). I have never gone mudding. I have been to a couple of backyard fires in a small fire pit in our back yard but don’t initiate such. I don’t drink to excess. I don’t do drugs. I do not have any tattoos. My daughter came along after I was married. With a couple of notable past exceptions, there is no drama in my life. I do not hunt; I have taken life but found no pleasure or joy in it. I don’t have a really nice house (but I do have a wonderful home). I have never been arrested nor do I have a record. Many of the aforementioned ‘things’ seem to be de rigueur for the spoke I am now in.
I understand what good manners are and use them. I respect virtually everyone I come in contact with as well as their property. I know what class is and I know shame is. I do have pretty much everything I need and want (except enough money). If I disagree with you, I say let us agree to disagree. I don’t name-call or tell you that I am right and you are wrong. I rarely swear aloud (but could out-swear the best among you). I am pretty much a rule follower as are my wife and daughter. I enjoy my own company and spend much of my down time alone. I know a little about a lot but not a lot about any one thing. I am happy with who I have become. Better? No, just different. Anyone who had me in school should remember my famous saying: “You don’t have to like everyone, but you do need to get along.” As Rodney King asked: “Can’t we all just get along?”