In the summer of 1976, my best friend and I, between our junior and senior years of high school, drove across America. We traveled 10,090 miles, much of it on back roads, camping and Motel 6’ing it all the way. We fished with hunters in Minnesota, and got high with girls much older than us around a campfire in South Dakota (high is all we got!). We ran out of cash in Salt Lake City and ran a gypsy car service for 3 days and made enough to continue west. We grew moustaches at the end of our trip so we looked older and could gain entry to the casinos in Las Vegas. We lost a few bucks and made a lifetime of memories. My friend is sadly gone. But the lessons of that trip have forged who I am, all these years later.
Over the past 12 months I have channeled every last ounce of my passion and energy into a new business that I will happily share very soon. It combines my love of the American back roads with homespun, un-fancy food. Over a lifetime of traversing the 2-lanes, I am yet to hit a small-town diner that did not provide a delicious grilled cheese and a friendly smile. The conversations, the laughter, and the offers of kindness and friendly recommendations have engrained in me what a marvelous and diverse people we are. You can bang through a screen door nearly anywhere in this country and not utter a word of politics. However everyone has an opinion on where the best fishing hole is.
Of course there are opinions and then there are facts. A fish on the line is as real as rain. But there is a damp, prevailing chill to the air, questioning what is truth and what is not. I once was a journalist. Journalists are as passionate, committed and highly trained as doctors. They earn degrees from the finest schools and forge their skills at the lowest paid jobs imaginable. They cover car accidents, City Council meetings and dog park disputes. It takes longer to get ahead in journalism than it does in medicine and the financial awards are a lot less. And yet the “ink-stained wretches” hang their livelihoods on one thing only: the veracity of the words they publish. Why would we ever doubt them? Their reputation is all they have.
A few years back I had the privilege of attending a Fireside Chat with former Secretary of State, Senator John Kerry. He spoke of contentious times when he and his colleagues fought bitterly across the aisle over the very same issues that divide us today. He recalled that after 12 hours of battle over tax cuts and trade tariffs, he and his most ardent foes would saunter out of the Capitol to the nearest watering hole. There, they would knock back a few drinks, watch a ballgame, and share a plate of wings. The issues that consumed them were put aside for the evening and they took up the business of being citizens. Divided in some ways, but united in so many more.
Maybe that is what we should take to the polls this week. Vote for the candidates that speak your mind, but do so with passion and refrain. Vote for those that would unite instead of divide. Vote for calm and reason. Maybe over the next four years we can rediscover the art of compromise. It’s a big darned land we occupy. Aren’t we ready to all just get along?