I can tell two stories about the first 26 months I spent in St. Louis, the time period I now think of as “before Ferguson.”
The first is that I loved St. Louis, with its countless amenities, all easily accessible and well utilized. The cost of living is great. The people are friendly, forgiving of things like the chaos of too many small children. So I dove in. I said yes to everything. I organized, hosted. Like magic, a reliable and loving community seemed to form around me.
Granted, these friends were different than the ones I’d had in Philadelphia and New York, more religious, more conservative. I learned to filter my comments because I could no longer assume that most would agree with just anything I said. For many of my new friends, being gay was a sin (love the person, hate the sin). So was all abortion. So was premarital sex. Obama was a hot topic. Obamacare was an even hotter topic. I started thinking about things I’d never considered before, like what is the polite way to inquire about the presence and security of guns in other peoples’ homes before arranging play dates?
But that was a good thing, right? Wasn’t I growing as a person by embracing these differences? I read Jonathan Haidt’s book “The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion” to help me understand the “very nice” people whose views were so different from mine. I deepened my appreciation for religious perspectives, for the pro-life point of view. I got off my east coast high horse and realized just how great life can be when you don’t spend half of it in traffic.
The second story is that it’s hard to live in a place where the predominant values are incongruous with your own, and in St. Louis, the cultural warning signs are anything but subtle.Read More