Sunday morning, I walked down the pier to our boat, looking forward to escaping the news and recharging my spirits. To my dismay, hoisted up the forestay of a neighboring sailboat, was a Trump 2020 flag.
All people in this country have a right to their opinion. But because it seems as if there has always been an unwritten rule that politics, family feuds, and other potentially controversial and stressful subjects are left in the marina parking lot, the flag was a jolt. I felt betrayed. A little bit angry. I would have felt the same had it been a Biden 2020 flag. I don’t want to be bombarded on the water. It is sacred time and space.
But I was also more than a little dumbfounded that someone who sails these Great Lakes could support a president who--in my opinion—cares so little about the quality of the water, about reducing the stressors that put such an essential resource at risk.
I considered interrupting the boat owners’ morning coffee and launching into a fact-based spiel based on fifteen years of research, but then I remembered Brian Doyle’s book, One Long River of Song. In the essay “His Listening,” Doyle describes his extraordinary and unforgettable experience of being in conversation with his father.
“. . .when you said something to him, anything at all, anything in the range from surpassingly subtle to stunningly stupid, he would listen carefully and attentively, and silently, without interrupting, without waiting with increased impatience for you to finish so he could correct or top or razz you, and he would even wait a few beats after you finished your remarks, on the off chance that you had something else you wanted to add, and then he would ponder what you had said, and then, without fail, he would say something encouraging first, before he got around to commenting on what it was you said with such breathtaking subtlety or stupidity.”
My grandmother, a mother of seven including two sets of twins, a young widow who endured cancer and whose insides were charred by early attempts at radiation, listened to me like that. One of my greatest memories is sitting on a wooden bench at the foot of her bed chattering about school, friends, boys, and dreams. My mother “inherited” that same skill.
So, rather than rattling off the top three reasons I think boaters should not vote for President Trump if they care about the health of the water on which they sail, I’d like to understand the other point of view—to really listen, learn. I’d like to help build a bridge of understanding rather than contribute to the divide ripping across our country.
If you are one of those boaters and willing to engage in “listening time,” contact me. Perhaps we might even learn each other’s names, wave to each other as we sail out the channel.
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