At a Blueberries & Cherries dinner Sunday night, I substituted strawberries for cherries to make a strawberry and blueberry shortcake topped with fresh whipped cream instead of my usual finish: blueberry and cherry crisp. The fresh fruit didn’t meld into the gooey, symbolic purple mixture of previous desserts, though. Perhaps I could be accused of lacking subtlety, but I even prepared a blue and a red pasta sauce, though adding blue cheese to the “blue” sauce didn’t actually make the sauce blue in color. Most people served themselves a mound of noodles from each bowl of pasta, however I noticed the most conservative person at the table ate only the “blue” sauce, which I did not interpret as a sign of my having persuaded his political views leftward. 🍓 🍒 🍝
Ideology around the table spanned the political spectrum from far left to solid right, but did not include any Trump voters. They’re difficult to find around DC, in part because we live in a liberal bastion and in part because that bastion has sent the few Trump voters among us into hiding.
Most of the early part of the evening entailed awkward conversation among strangers from diverse backgrounds. We discussed the ways in which we self-select into tribes and the ways in which we signal our tribal affiliation, carrying a particular handbag, sporting tattoos, the restaurants where we choose to dine. Connecting across these unspoken divides requires effort and can be emotionally depleting.
One person said she considered bailing out, before reminding herself, our country needed us to talk to each other. And she was curious. She wanted to ask questions and hear what people with different ideologies thought. I have been hearing these same sentiments over and over as I travel around America organizing similar dinners and I feel so optimistic.
By the time we got to the dessert course, conversation flowed and people expressed their opinions freely. Civil discourse didn’t mean suppressing our views for fear of offending someone. Civil discourse meant showing up and telling stories as our authentic selves and finding ways to see each other as humans despite the otherizing used to divide us.