Recently, a woman named Jennifer Hills in the small Oregon town where I live wrote a letter to our local newspaper, The Nugget. In her letter, she noted that some local folks have been putting up "In Our America..." American flag signs, and this seemed to make her nervous. She felt that with these kinds of people in her community, she could no longer assume that her neighbors would have her back in an emergency. She called the signs "vacuous virtue signaling." It made her want to buy a gun.
My response, printed as a "guest column" in The Nugget, seemed to strike a chord. Several locals wrote to the paper, praising it. When I posted a link to it on my online community, The Well, and in a Central Oregon community political group's Facebook page, I got loads of kudos and "whoah, that made me think" comments, the kind of overwhelming feedback a writer likes to get (especially when the article in question has to do with, like, the fate of our divided nation).
I've since thought it through and realized my initial letter was too dismissive of Ms. Hills' concerns. Several liberal-leaning people mentioned feeling the same way she does, only in reverse; they fear that their conservative neighbors might leave them to die in a fire or do them violence. I realized I'm prejudiced against conservatives with the same argument. I need to work on that prejudice, and continue working on slippery-slope, extremist, polarized thinking in general. This long, dark winter, I wrestled with this part of myself. I guess now I'm ready to talk about it, to take action, and to hope that I'm not alone in this—that many of us are willing to do the hard work to bridge divides.
If not, then we have nothing to fight *for*. It doesn't matter who's idealogically correct or pure, who gets to claim the high ground of self righteousness, if we've all blasted each other to bits and destroyed our democracy.
Pictured is the same sign Jennifer Hills was talking about. We planted this sign in front of our little rPod trailer all summer, as we camped around different places in Oregon and Washington, before we were able to buy a house.