We’re out here.
In the middle of the reddest townships in the reddest counties in the reddest states, we’re out here.
It started to happen after Newtown. The look in their eyes, the sadness on their faces. Something about the way they carried themselves clued you in. It was safe to admit where you stood on the issue. And when you hinted at it, you could see the relief replace the sadness. At least for a little bit, it was ok to talk about. For real. To share what you really thought, not the red-friendly version of it. Not the version you tell most of your pals, because you’re afraid that if you told them how you really felt about the guns they keep wherever people keep guns, you’d be pretty lonely pretty soon. Not that version, the real version.
It’s happening again, exponentially more.
Profound disappointment is an expression. I’ve seen it on my own face many times over the last 48 hours, a quick glance in the mirror that turns into a stare. And I’ve recognized it on lots of other faces too. More faces than I would have believed, in this really red place that I happen to live in.
Maybe it’s recognizing that expression. Maybe it’s the way they respond to a hallway “How you doing” greeting with, “Oh, hanging in there.” Maybe it’s how they don’t laugh at the sexist joke about your candidate that a mutual acquaintance just told.
Something clues you in. You get the feeling that it’s ok to open up. So you let your guard down and admit where you stand. Something you take a decent amount of care to protect, at the very least downplay, in this really red place.
A hallway greeting turns into 45 minutes, and you leave the conversation believing that things really are going to be ok. There is some goodness coming from this. A deeper, safe relationship starts to form.
This is happening. A lot. Far more than I ever would have believed, in this really red place.
We’re used to keeping things to ourselves. To biting our tongue. To staying quiet when an acquaintance assumes that we share their perspective — maybe because we look alike, or maybe just because we live in this really red place. We’re used to not fully engaging. To suddenly realizing we’re late for something when the conversation turns to the evils of social safety nets or the silliness of unisex bathrooms.
When you’re surrounded by it, it’s easy to feel like you’re wrong, or that somehow you must not understand something that everyone else understands.
Or that you don’t belong.
And then this happens, and it fills you with renewed energy for your values and beliefs. Things you’d always felt, but that you’d started to question out here in this township, in this county. You remember what it feels like to fully be yourself in a new relationship. Unguarded.
We’re out here. Even in these really red places, we’re out here. And we’re finding each other. And we’re realizing that we really do belong.
And we can’t wait for our next opportunity to vote.