Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Too Much Politics?

Lots of news lately about how politics is dividing America. First an excellent story in the Times about Sauk County, Wisconsin, which split fifty-fifty in the election and where many find they can no longer even mention politics in public:
It was late afternoon and her bar was close to empty, so Lisa Buttonow poured herself a cherry-chocolate beer and broke one of her rules: Never reveal in a public place how she feels about President Trump.

“You’ve got to be so careful around here,” explained Ms. Buttonow, owner of the Branding Iron Roadhouse in Lime Ridge, population 165. “You never know who’s a Democrat and who’s a Republican.” (As if to emphasize the point, she insisted that her own leanings were not for publication.) . . .

Some people said that even in a place with a nearly 50-50 mix of Republicans and Democrats, they still managed to live in their own bubbles.

“I try to hang around with the people that I’m used to hanging around with, people that I know share my beliefs,” said Larry Mundth, 61, a dairy and beef farmer in Reedsburg who is a Democrat. “I do know people who are positive, optimistic and Democratic. Those are the people I surround myself with, more often than not.”

Republicans described a similar silence on political talk. John Starling, 55, a farmer in Lime Ridge who is a Republican, said that even mentioning whom you voted for could be needlessly provocative. “It’s so polarizing,” he said. “You don’t torment people to their face.”

Al Exner, chairman of the Sauk County Republicans, sat in a diner in Reedsburg on a recent morning, recounting the times when arguments about politics could go on “tooth and nail” for hours, even among the best of friends, and nobody would walk away offended.

Mr. Exner, 80, regularly gets together over eggs and hash browns with old friends who have met for years. There are a few Democrats in the group. No one is allowed to discuss the new president or his policies.

“I’ve learned to keep my mouth shut,” Mr. Exner said. “There were days when we had our differences, but you could talk about it. Those days of disagreeing and being able to continue a conversation just don’t exist anymore.”
Politics is also  spilling over into business at the national level. First we had liberals deleting Uber from their phones over its stand on the airport protests, and now this:
Some Starbucks customers are threatening to boycott the coffee giant after its CEO took a stand against President Donald Trump's executive order barring immigrants from seven majority-Muslim countries from entering the US.

On Sunday, Starbucks announced it planned to hire 10,000 refugees worldwide in the next five years. "We are living in an unprecedented time, one in which we are witness to the conscience of our country, and the promise of the American Dream, being called into question," CEO Howard Schultz wrote in a letter to Starbucks employees about the plan.

While many customers were immediately supportive of Starbucks' actions on social media, others threatened to boycott after the letter's release.

"Upon hearing about your decision to hire 10000 refugees instead of Americans I will no longer spend any money at Starbucks," one such Facebook user wrote on Starbucks' page.
This sort of thing worries me a lot more than the antics in the White House. The country is very evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, and we have to be able to live together.

1 comment:

David said...

I feel the same thing in the country. Part of the reason for this situation is, I think, that we really are divided over profound issues. The divisiveness isn't necessarily some sort of mistake or byway that we've wandered down and can solve with a course correction. It's the real, honest state of the population, or large parts of it.

I've been wondering if the best historical model might not be seventeenth-century England. Cavaliers and Roundheads were divided over issues of personal identity and the styles that reflected identity, but also over issues of profound belief and over policy. The outcome then, by the 1690s, was not the victory of either party but rather, their mutual exhaustion, and a profoundly new dispensation very different from both.