Back from Fishtrap: I think I’m getting old and cranky. . .

I sailed home tonight (if you can call 10 hours of traveling sailing home) between major storms and arrived safely. Ben wanted me to stay in town tonight. He claimed he was worried about me traveling in some pretty foul weather, but I think he was secretly enjoying his time alone with no one to nag him–he almost admitted as much. But I was sort of dodging in and out of snow storms and hail and rain, and I elected to keep driving. I wanted to be home.

Fishtrap was wonderful as always. I saw a number of folks that I count as close friends even though I only see them at these twice-a-year events. But I also confess to a certain anomie after this particular session.

This winter session’s topic was “The Great Divide,” and the program proposed to explore the various ways in which we ensile ourselves and separate from others. The presentations were very good. Howard Berkes, NPR’s rural affairs beat reporter kicked things off. Bill Bishop, a journalist from Austin, presented some fascinating numbers about the changes in U.S. demographics in the last 30 years. And David Romtvedt, poet laureate of Wyoming, presented a very entertaining look at red and blue politics in Wyoming.

On top of all of this, we had wonderful music and dancing, a very funny recap by Jonathan Nicholas of the Oregonian, very good food, and terrific accommodations. So why the anomie?

Here we had 50 smart people and (for the most part) talented writers. But they couldn’t stay on topic. The breakout sessions for discussion disappointed me. They kept degenerating into views of the large abstractions like global warming and the war in Iraq.

Now, before you jump all over me and point out that the war in Iraq is not an abstraction (point conceded), let me say that it is also something that I’m not sure that, as individual citizens, we can have much of an impact on. What I was hoping for from these sessions was an exploration of the things that we can do together as individuals to promote an environment in which, in the immortal words of Rodney King, we can all just “get along” and in doing so make our world a better place.

You don’t get along with other individuals by insisting that everything be your way. But the first step to getting along is to acknowledge that there may be very different views of the same situation. Once you have done that, you can begin to explore moral issues, acceptable compromises, and so forth. But when a participant says “I am [political party] because I am smart and you are [political party], therefore you must be stupid,” I just have this sinking feeling of all possibility of realistic dialogue going right out the window.

I think in part I’m tired of focusing on divisions. The things that make us alike are so much more numerous (and so much more important) than the things that divide us. What would happen if we focused on common ground and then just worked out the details of the rest of it?

I’m glad to be home.

2 Responses to “Back from Fishtrap: I think I’m getting old and cranky. . .”

  1. MoskerVenice Says:

    May the Intelligent Designer bless you, Marianne. What feels like anomie is actually proof that there’s some hope and idealism left in you, both of which tend to cause–um shall we say, discomfort [insert your own dentist or off-color joke] –when making contact with reality.

    I’d probably have more insight, but I’m too cheap to pay for Scientology.

    Live from Los Angeles…

  2. mklekacz Says:

    Dave, how great to hear from you.

    I’ve been listening to a series of lectures on American transcendentalism (Emerson, Thoreau, and the lesser-known cohort), and before you commit money to scientology (regardless of what Tom Cruise thinks it did for him), go read “Walden” and “Civil Disobedience” again and park yourself in the most remote spot you can find for a few days. It clears the mind and the belly. Trust me.

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