And I said “What about Breakfast at Tiffany’s?”
She said “I think I remember the film
And as I recall, I think we both kinda liked it”
And I said “Well, that’s the one thing we’ve got”
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I HAVEN’T BEEN able to shake that song since I heard it a couple of weeks ago. It’s not the catchy tune that has me haunted. It’s what seems on its face like a pathetic premise: that a couple could revive a disintegrating relationship on such a flimsy basis as both having “kinda” liked what was then a 32-year-old movie.
That premise might be precisely what we need as a nation, a state, a community torn apart by the ugliest presidential campaigns of our lifetimes.
We are extraordinarily fortunate that we didn’t end up in my worst nightmare: with a significant minority of voters convinced that the election was rigged, votes were stolen, the whole electoral process hijacked. The prospect of so many people feeling further alienated from the mainstream of our society is dangerous territory in a nation built on the idea of self-governance, because that idea works only to the degree that people believe it can work.
Still, our nation is deeply divided, and more importantly, a lot of our relationships are strained, some to the breaking point. How many Hillary Clinton supporters don’t resent the Donald Trump supporters in their lives? How many Donald Trump supporters aren’t tempted to rub it in? How long before conversations between co-workers, fellow church members, friends, relatives veer into the resentment and the gloating, and rifts that cannot be healed — if that hasn’t already happened?
We desperately need reconciliation.
So what about Breakfast at Tiffany’s?
Surely there are things we all have in common — things we all agree on — that we can use as the basis to start pulling ourselves back together as a nation, a state, a community, as friends and families.
Don’t we all want our children to inherit a better world? Don’t we all want less crime in our neighborhoods and more and better jobs for our neighbors and a diminished threat of terrorism and clean water to drink and safe food to eat? We don’t agree on how to get there, but surely we all agree on the goals. If we will keep that in mind — if we will resist the temptation to believe that those who disagree with us on how to achieve our goal must not share our goal — then a great deal of the work will be done.
For those of us who call ourselves Christians — and in South Carolina, that’s the overwhelming majority — there’s a whole lot more than that. In fact, as we sit in church fuming over fellow parishioners who surely voted the other way, we might try to recall that our faith tells us that everything we agree on is far more important than any election or debate or policy that could result from any election. Eternally more important.
Once we realize that those who disagree with our politics aren’t evil, then perhaps we should try … changing the subject.
I was entertaining a dining room full of guests when the conversation at one end of the table grew increasingly loud, and tense, and I realized I had made a huge mistake by seating my most outspoken liberal guest between and across the table from some of my most outspoken conservative guests. I was frantically trying to think of a way to defuse the tension when my liberal friend blurted out: “Let’s talk about cats.”
Nearly 10 years later, every one who was around that table — and a lot more people — know that “Let’s talk about cats” means it’s time to change the subject.
You might try that when things start to get heated around the house, or the office, or anywhere.
Certainly it’s valuable for all of us to have some difficult political conversations, at least to disabuse us of the notion that everyone we know thinks the way we do, if not to challenge our too-often-unchallenged assumptions. But the fact is that as voters — especially as voters after an election — most of us don’t have to talk about our political differences.
There are people who do have to talk about those differences, people who do have to work through competing approaches and even world views. They are our lawmakers. We hire them to do that extraordinarily difficult work.
Those who insist that all of us must engage in certain difficult conversations before we can move on might be correct. In some cases. But at this moment, we should keep two important points in mind:
1. We do not have to have difficult conversations about every disagreement. There is no reason, for instance, that Clinton and Trump supporters have to talk through their differences before they put the campaign behind them.
2. We can’t have those conversations until the parties are ready to have those conversations. Until we have some common ground to start from.
Right now, what we need to focus on is finding some common ground to start from.
Ms. Scoppe writes editorials and columns for The State. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org or (803) 771-8571 or follow her on Twitter or like her on Facebook @CindiScoppe.