It's been a week of many strange phone calls. Yesterday I wrote a post about my phone calls that came about because someone used my credit card in unauthorized ways. Some day, maybe I'll write about all the phone calls that one must make when one hopes to sell a condo (hopefully we'll close on Wednesday, but I've learned not to pin my hopes on any one buyer).
On Thursday night, we were watching Parks and Rec, and the phone rang. We let the machine get it. We heard Mitt Romney, imploring us to vote in the primary on Saturday.
This phone call was surreal on so many levels. First of all, we're watching Parks and Rec, watching the characters plan a campaign commercial, and we get a phone call from a real life candidate. Life imitating art or art imitating life?
Then there's the fact that we live in Florida, and unless Mitt Romney would like me to commit voter fraud, we are not eligible to vote in the S.C. primary. Or was Mitt calling in advance for the Florida primary on Jan. 31? But that primary is not on a Saturday. And the Florida primary will only be open to registered Republicans, which we are not.
And to make this stranger, we once did live in South Carolina, and we lived there for many years. But we moved in 1998. How did Mitt get my number? With the recent credit card fraud and the real estate implosion still lingering, my brain immediately started to spin nightmare scenarios: you only think you sold those houses that you used to own when you lived in South Carolina; you still own them because someone filed the paper work wrong, and if you still own them, you're very delinquent on those loans. Since our credit has not been impaired, I managed to quiet my brain.
Still, it was weird. Mitt Romney thinks we still live in South Carolina, while my Florida friends and colleagues seem to forget that we ever lived there and that I still have family there.
Yesterday, I had had enough. When a colleague was winding up to spew about South Carolina bigots, I held up my hand and said, "When's the last time you were in South Carolina?"
She looked surprised. "Never."
I've written about South Carolina before, about how the state is more complicated than many people, who get their news from God knows where, believe. Most people's imaginations are stuck back in 1962, which I sort of understand, because South Carolina does have such an ugly history when it comes to race relations and those images are stark. But the situation has changed.
I worry about the fact that I've lived here since 1998. I worry that I will become one of those people who becomes narrower and narrower as they see and read about less and less of the world. I worry about the fact that more and more, I tend to meet people who are just like me.
Once, I knew a lot of conservatives, and so it's easier to understand their world outlook. I've moved among many different types of religious circles in my life, and so, I have some understanding of those populations that my liberal friends do not. I feel like I speak many different cultural languages, but I also fear that could change.
During our recent funeral trip that wound through the southeast, we stayed on military bases because we were travelling with my parents and that's one of the ways they travel. We talked about how few people anymore even know someone in the military. It's one of the cultures that seems very foreign to the people I know. But not so very long ago, it wouldn't have been.
When I drive from home to work and back, I go by a train station, and if the light is red, I look that way to see who's waiting, either for the Amtrak train or the local commuter train. The other night I saw a guy in full Army fatigues with a huge duffel bag, and I was struck by how seldom I see military people down here in South Florida.
Of course, South Florida is diverse in ways that South Carolina is not. South Florida is an intersection between North, Central, and South Americas.
And I probably romanticize my own past. I didn't really meet a huge diversity of people in my little liberal arts college where I earned my undergraduate degree. And even during our grad school years at the University of South Carolina, we met primarily people more like us than different. Sure there was the occasional Egyptian student who came to our sewing Saturdays (the first Muslim I ever knew) or the student from South Korea who called to congratulate me when I passed my Comps, but for the most part, students were white and middle to upper class from Protestant backgrounds.
You don't need me to tell you that the nation is becoming more polarized every day. I wish I had some snazzy solution, a neat way to end this blog post. But I do not. I used to think that our writing was a solution, that by writing the truth about our lives, we'd make the world more diverse, and everyone would become more tolerant. My idealistic self still believes that. My cynical self knows that people tend to read material that supports their world view, material written by people just like them.
I can't solve this, so I'll choose to go with my idealistic self. I'll write in the hopes that I'm changing the world, or at least leaving a record that will be important later. I'll continue to engage in conversation in the hopes that I can remind people of the humanity of us all, even if we have divergent religious beliefs or political beliefs or economic beliefs. I'll be seen as that strangely optimistic woman tucked away in an office that's full of poetry books with fiber art on the walls--that's not a bad mission in life at all!