I and my wife Carol aren’t city dwellers. We prefer living outside the city in a more rural, quieter, more natural, and in our opinion, far more beautiful setting. We love the rural area we call home.
And we love the Sangamon River; a river that binds us to a community we love.
We usually land in what’s called the “exurbs”, defined as “a region or settlement that lies outside a city and usually beyond its suburbs and that often is inhabited chiefly by well-to-do families.” Right after that, the dictionary says, (see: “Mahomet”). And you think I’m making this up?
Now here we find ourselves in the post-election exurbs.
And it seems that I, my party, along with most of the pundits, pollsters and prognosticators all got thoroughly Trumped in the last election. The more rural areas of our country and much of the exurbs, where we love to live, turned out in far greater numbers than anyone expected for Republican candidate Donald Trump.
But that’s nothing new to me.
I can read the Citizen. I know that Hillary polled only 30.8% support out here to Trump’s 59.2. I’ve also run for political office as a Dem three times out here and lost pathetically, although I did poll more votes in County Board District 1 than Obama in 2008 (30% for Scott; 25% for Barack). So, thanks for that, Mahomet!
So what do presidential elections have to do with the Sangamon River? Presumably nothing. The group of Mahomet-area volunteers that I work with, the USRC, includes people who paddle, clean up and work side by side while sharing a diversity of political views.
Actually, I’m not too sure about most of them. We don’t really spend much time discussing politics, we just do what we love. And guess what: none of it matters out there on the river. Red, blue, purple, green, the river welcomes all.
And that is the point. We all live, work and play together. And it’s not essential that we all think alike or share political viewpoints.
Pollsters, pundits and prognosticators love to paint certain areas of the country red or blue. Which is meaningless in many ways. Sure, the exurbs of Mahomet voted red for Trump. But all of our state’s 20 electoral votes were painted blue for Hillary, despite Trump’s 59% support here. So what does it matter?
I’m not pollyannish enough to say, “let’s just set aside our differences and all get along now” or something like, “we’re all the same” or “we all put our pants on one leg at a time”. We’re not. We’re different, and we will remain so.
Well, actually, we do all put our pants on one leg at a time, but we are different.
On this score, I’m a faithful follower of my hero, Founding Father James Madison, who said: “The latent causes of faction are sown in the nature of man”. He felt that in a pure democracy (which the Founders deliberately didn’t create), “there is nothing to check the inducements to sacrifice the weaker party or an obnoxious individual. Hence it is that such democracies have ever been spectacles of turbulence and contention.”
Therefore, our Founders created a republican form of government along with a system of checks and balances to reduce the effects of faction, but not eliminate them altogether. But if this past election is any indicator, our elections can still be “spectacles of turbulence and contention.” Sorry, James.
We can be divided, we can agree to disagree, but in the end, we follow the rules the Framers laid down in our Constitution and look ahead. Our diversity makes us stronger.
And we all love our exurban community. As for myself and the people I’ve connected with, our river binds us together, creating a commonality of purpose and a cause that we can all agree on.
I feel more a part of this community than any community I’ve lived in, including my own home town. I love the land I live on, the property I own with the river running past it, and yes, I like my property rights.
Heck, someday I may even figure out a way to serve my community by winning some political office. But that would probably entail, as one of my conservative friends sardonically advised, that I “come over to the dark side”.
In the meantime, here we are: friends, neighbors, columnists, all working side by side for our community and for our river.
A river that through good times and through more divisive times, still binds us together.
And that’s good for everyone: red, blue, purple or green.
Appeared as Notes from the River, Thursday November