One of the highlights of the holiday season for me is that I get to see some old friends in the suburbs. Being a city-dweller for some time, the trips come less frequently these days if you don't count shopping excursions.
And during holiday gatherings, either close or far from home, I was almost afraid to bring up anything politically oriented.
Because I knew the discussions could get heated. I'm not sure I could ever say that before.
Talk to city people, and I hear one side of a story. One person did a video slide project in which she took pictures of a collection of homes that house school children in Buffalo. Take my word for it, you'd think you were looking at, well, not quite Haiti, but maybe Mexico City. Would you like to spend a Buffalo winter in a house with gaps in the outside walls?
Talk to suburban people, and I hear another side of the story. I hear complaints about taxes, whether it be corporate or personal, and how wrong it is to keep adding to the burdens of the relatively wealthy.
The problem, of course, is that both sides have some truth to their argument. Some of the suburbanites here point to President Obama and claim he's taking us to socialism, while also pointing to County Executive Collins and claim that he's working hard to keep government spending in check. The city dwellers say Obama is more in tune with realities, while Collins only is concerned with not raising taxes at all while pushing his own vision by such moves as laying off the only people who can keep an eye on him, auditors in the comptroller's office -- and costing taxpayers money in the process as he unsuccessfully defends his illegal actions in court.
That leaves with with us vs. them, Republicans vs. Democrats, Fox vs. MSNBC, Red Sox vs. Yankees. The problem is that if we don't listen to how the other half lives, we'll never understand their position. It will always be us vs. them, and not just plain "we."
Guess what? We're all in this together.
It's an off-off-year for elections, which means there will be some significant local races. Can't wait to see how the political conversation turns out as we go through 2011. I smell some rage getting ready to boil over.
In the meantime, Happy New Year.