Monday, September 06, 2004

A Labor Day Block Party

We have a very nice tradition in these parts of having all neighbors come together at the end of the summer for a block party. Everybody brings a dish or two, some lend their grills, some bring balloons and music, and the road is blocked off from traffic. And soon the street fills up with chairs and ballgames and children running to and fro with dogs and each other and adults standing eating and talking in large and small groups.

We had one these parties today and it was very successful! Nobody else even got near the chocolate ice-cream cake, though the side-effect was that I slept the rest of the day, and even got a little flegmatic before the party was over. This was why I sat down for a while just watching, and realized that the block party was like a big leap back in (imaginary?) history, to a real communal world where children could run free and take risks, where the parents could relax, knowing that many others watched over their children, where gossip and important information was equally exchanged, joys and griefs shared together with the food and the drink. I suspect that there were some Republicans there, but everybody was smiling and friendly. For one day, at least, we were indeed good neighbors.

That's what is going wrong with the public discourse in the United States. The atmosphere in the media is not that of friendly neighbors arguing over common matters but much more that of two armies negotiating a possible siegefire. The fault lies almost totally with the wingnuts who started this all with their slogans of culture wars, and trying to a be a good neighbor to someone who wants to raze down your house doesn't work. But I do wish we could try a little bit harder to build bridges across ideological chasms. For the other side are human, too, whatever else we sometimes imply.