I met Ruth during a gathering of local nonprofits held at Cape Fear Community College’s Schwartz Center last Saturday. She was at the NAACP table, telling attendees about the mission and efforts of the New Hanover County chapter.
The event was well into its second hour, but Ruth had just arrived. She had been at the women’s march downtown, a few blocks away. She said how great the event was, how empowering, how wonderful.
As a husband and father of an amazing daughter, I’m 100 percent in favor of women’s rights — equal pay, equal respect, equal opportunity, the right not to be assaulted. But other than serving as a general protest of the man inaugurated as president the day before and a way to vent collective spleens, I didn’t really get the purpose of the march, nationally and locally.
The gatherings across the country were intended to affirm the message that “women’s rights are human rights” (don’t know anyone who disagrees with that) and to “show intersectionality” (whatever that means). They were “made up of women of all races, ethnicities, political persuasions” — except for the pro-life women who were asked not to attend.
I could have confronted Ruth with my reservations. I could have shared my opinion that the vulgar and obscene language and imagery on full display in Washington, D.C., were inappropriate for the children present. But I didn’t.
We moved on to other topics. I said I work for Wrightsville Beach Magazine (Lumina News’ sister publication). She loves the magazine and asked about getting extra copies of an issue from last year that had a story she liked to share with friends. When I said I had written the story, she grabbed my hands in gratitude.
Her husband is a musician who’s famous in jazz circles. We talked about our love of the music, concerts we’d attended, artists we’d seen. She said she was going to a jazz jam the following evening, and I should bring my wife. I said I’d be there.
We went and sat at a table with Ruth and a man named Alan, a pianist who’s new to town and wants to get plugged into the local jazz scene. Alan sat in with the band for a couple of songs, and proved to be an outstanding musician. We talked about his influences, his background, and the challenge of pursuing music while not forsaking his day job as a scientist.
I left feeling I’d made two good friends that weekend, which probably would not have happened if I’d started my conversation with Ruth by debating politics.
Don’t get me wrong. I love a good, lively political debate with friends. But in this season, friendly debates have been replaced by confrontation. There’s a video making the rounds of a woman kicked off an airplane after berating a passenger because he voted for the candidate she despised. The sister of a Marine killed in Iraq in 2007 and the wife of a Navy SEAL who died in Afghanistan in 2010 were spit on, called vile names and their clothing ruined by protesters while walking to the Salute to Heroes Inaugural Gala on Friday.
Sadly, such invective seems to be all too common these days.
It doesn’t have to be this way. Instead of hostility, why not seek common ground?
In December, I interviewed Wilmington pastor James Jamison about his outreach ministry called Boots on the Ground for a magazine story. Each month the group goes into a Wilmington public housing property to dispense food and love.
Jamison ran for school board as a Democrat. Many of his volunteers vote Republican. But it doesn’t interfere.
“One month a bunch of us were out at Houston Moore, and we were talking about the election,” Jamison said. “It was only then that I found out that they were all Republicans. But I looked around and I really saw the power of God. Democrats and Republicans and independents, all of us working together serving the children to the glory of God. I’m not with them on Donald Trump, but Donald Trump was not going to dictate whether we did our job here or not. We just worked together.”
Now that sounds like a pretty good template to follow.