The Call for Unity is a Utopian Fantasy

There is no common ground with extremists

Lisa Renee


Photo by Rodolfo Quevenco on Unsplash

Last summer, my neighbors planted a red Trump/Pence sign in their front yard. It has been obscured by the snow for many weeks, but is starting to appear again with the creeping thaw. Four months after the election, the sign is slumped and askew, battered by its winter burial, but it has not faded. Four months and dozens of lost court cases later, these people are still waving their red flag, cocktails in hand and Fox on the television.

I should put up a Carter/Mondale sign.

We’ve been told to seek unity. Talk to your neighbors, they say. Find common ground. After more than twenty years in this lovely rural place, with these particular neighbors — let’s call them Dick and Dot — the common ground is clear: We all like flowers, and pickles. We share opinions about the weather and the birds. We’re white. We are, all of us, human.

That’s where the common ground ends.

The uncommon ground is much more vast and treacherous. A chasm that cannot be crossed. Never the twain shall meet. Dick and Dot have performed some neighborliness, like bringing us flowers from their garden and offering to “watch the place” if we leave. But they are staunch racists and not shy about it. They grumble indignantly about everyone in our small community. They are patently dim, and haughtily superior. Dot yells at road crews, delivery people, and the postal carrier. Dick shoots all the woodland creatures and boasts about it. He pees in his front yard, facing my house, and asks too many questions about my daughter. They make me uncomfortable.

We have tried to be good neighbors. I have given them Christmas cookies, and delivered tea and honey when she was sick. My husband, Steven, has repeatedly rescued their tiny tractor from ditches and holes. He responded immediately when Dot called in a panic, to find Dick sprawled unconscious on their kitchen floor, marinating in a puddle of his own urine.

“I think he’s drunk,” Steven told her.

“Oh good,” she said. “I was hoping that’s all it was.”

Dick has diabetes. He pours his first whiskey and Coke at noon every day. He also has emphysema and is never without a cigarette.