This is Marideth Sisco for These Ozarks Hills. As Autumn graces us with one last splash of splendor this week before the rains finish stripping the trees of their showy palette, it offers a parallel skill of sweeping our minds clear of our troubles for a moment, offering one last grace note of honest-to-goodness goodness to our thoughts.
Times are always tense in any year in any country when election times draw near. All our common courtesy disappears and we begin to break out old stored up and ill-used adjectives to describe people we have until now just thought of as our fellow citizens. We often fall from grace into invective, showing our worst side rather than our best. And some years are worse than others.
I remember a scene from childhood long ago when my mother got into a bit of a tiff with her best friend over the politics of the time. I was very young and didn’t understand much about the conversation, but I remember the punch line very well. My mother, a staunch Republican, said something disparaging, I don’t remember what, about the recently departed President Roosevelt. Her friend Bonnie, a Democrat, was horrified. “Why Marguerite,” she said. “Don’t you know you should speak nothing but good about the dead?” “Fine,” my mother returned. “Roosevelt’s dead. Good!” They had to go up to Goldie’s cafe and have a cup of coffee and cool off a bit after that. And agree to leave politics out of their discussions from then on. We do get a bit hotheaded in times like those, but fortunately, we’re isolated enough as a culture that some of those hotspots we don’t even hear about until they’re over. In fact, I remember hearing that European settlers in the very early Ozarks didn’t get word about the War of 1812 until 1815 or thereabouts. And our very uncivil part in the Civil War taught us more than anything that a country as isolated as ours couldn’t afford to wipe out a generation of our finest, no matter what the cause. We miss them still. We’ve been a little nicer to each other since then. But listening to the talk on both sides about the issues today has made me think perhaps a little conversation about perspective might be in order. For as members of one of the most unique cultures to ever have been forged in this country, we still have far more that unites us than what separates us. And that thought takes me straight back to 2010, when the movie Winter’s Bone was about to hit theaters nationwide. In our last film festival appearance, at a small theater in the basement of the Museum of Modern Art in New York City, festival goers had just seen the film and were asking questions of the several cast members who had shown up to offer answers. In the midst of it, a statuesque, besequined woman stood up in the back, and addressed a question to me. “You mean to tell me you have people like that living in the Ozarks?” she asked, her hands on her hips. Having just come in from the streets of New York, where I’d observed several people of remarkable kinds apparently living there, I was kinda taken aback. But I answered her. “Well, yes,” I said. But she was not done. “What do you call those people,” she asked in a voice dripping with disdain. There was only one answer. “Neighbors,” I said. “They’re just neighbors.” So I would offer a suggestion to those of us caught up, as we all are, in all the angst and drama of the periodic ritual of attempting to choose who will speak for us. Do your best. Fight your hardest. Keep to your principles. Win if you can. But after it’s over and the work has been done, try to remember that win or lose, who’s right and who’s wrong, when the dust settles and we cool down a bit, we’re just neighbors in an oversize neighborhood, all just doing what we think best. The next morning when we wake up, there won’t be rioting in the streets or government offices under siege. There will just be you and me and our neighbors, tired, a little footsore and some more annoyed than others. We’ll be heading off for work and school and back into our regular lives, where autumn, with any luck, will still be hanging around in all its ragged, tweedy, splendor, making beautiful these sweet old Ozarks Hills. And somehow on that morning we will summon the grace to say to our neighbors, “Good morning. It’s a beautiful day in the Ozarks.” That’s grace. It comes to us naturally here. And in the words of that wonderful old hymn: ’tis grace will lead us home. Ok, homily’s over. Go vote.