The upcoming US Presidential election has been, as you can imagine, a favourite topic of conversation all through my travels through the country these last four weeks. Two families I spent time with in Montana were typical.
The first is a farming family, going back three generations. At least three of the youngest generation, just out of college, have decided to stay on the farm. They raise cattle -- about 350 animals -- for milk (not for beef) and grow on their land about two-thirds of the feed those 350 animals need. "We'll vote for McCain," they told me, "even though he's not nearly conservative enough." And what does "conservative" mean to them? A certain bedrock of values, a desire that more of the country "connects" with the land and learns where their food comes from, a respect for life and your fellow human beings.
The second is a family that has also farmed, but on less land, and not animals. The younger generation is not particularly interested in farming; of the two I met, one is in University studying foreign relations, and the other is still in high school. "We're all hoping Obama will win," my friend in the family said. "We think he stands for a new kind of politics in this country." And what did that mean? Obama seems genuinely to be reaching out rather than excluding people, addressing people's concerns on the "other" side too.
There was much more, in both conversations. Both families had clearly put a lot of thought into their choices. Both were persuasive with their arguments. It surprised me that in both cases, I found more to agree with than disagree with.
What also surprised me, but really left me encouraged, is that these two families know, like and respect each other. Two of the men -- one from each family -- have held political office in the community and have actually worked closely together; that's where the mutual respect comes from. One described the other to me as "terrific". The other said of the first, "he's a great guy."
I asked in my previous post, is there no space left for nuance?
People like these, they tell me that perhaps there is.