I see him out of the corner of my eye, stop drawing and move one of the pebbles from one side of the milk crate to the other. “Hi,” I say cheerfully, “you can go right in.” He smiles and says thanks, puts on his mask, and walks into the Co-op.
I know him, not his name, but the way you know people who live in the same small town. I’ve seen him get into this car at the post office and hardware store. The car patchworked with bumper stickers supporting Trump’s rhetoric, much of it maligning women.
His politics are more than just the opposite of my politics. It feels personal. But for the next hour it’s my job to keep track of how many people are going in and out of the Co-op, only five people allowed at a time.
I think of the Trump rally that’s going to take place on Main Street in our town on Saturday and I feel a flash of anger.
When Trump was elected president I told myself the one thing I would not do was be divisive. I was not going to join Trump’s campaign to further divide us.
But figuring out what how to do that while still speaking my truth has been an evolving task.
Sometimes it means avoiding talking politics completely. But it also means hanging a Black Lives Matter sign from the clothesline. It means making sure to keep good relationships with friends and acquaintances I know or believe might be Trump supporters. It means continuing to create art that affirms individuality and the importance of “Showing Your Soul” It means participating in #tinypricks. It means listening and not instigating when people do talk politics no matter what side they’re on and trying to rationally get my point across without it becoming an angry argument.
I have not always been successful, but I have tried to be mindful.
In small towns, you quickly learn not to have feuds with your neighbors. There’s a good chance you might need each other sometime. That’s when we see how much alike we really all are.
I don’t want to even drive by the Trump rally because I don’t want to see which of my neighbors will be there. And I know and believe they have as much a right to walk down Main Street with their signs as me and about 150 other people had the right to stand on the corner of Main Street supporting Black Lives Matter.
This is the divide. There is no room for nuance when the empty space between us is filled with anger.
“Have a nice day”, I say to the man as he comes out of the Co-op his empty canvas bag now filled. As I move the pebble back it almost feels as if we’ve achieved a heroic act of civility.