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Op-ed: Divided We Fall

Op-ed: Divided We Fall


Finding common ground with a gun-loving guy in a pickup truck at 3 in the morning.

I recently started working weekend graveyard shifts at a gas station and convenience store in Missoula, Mont. At 2:45 one morning a guy pulls up to the pumps in a big white truck with NRA stickers on the bumpers. On his back window he has a giant, bigger-than-life-size decal of a military-style assault rifle with the words "If You Want Mine, You Better Bring Yours."

I decided to take a photograph of it; my intentions were to post in on Facebook so my friends and I could electronically shake our heads in disbelief and write things like "Wow! What an idiot."

The guy saw me and asked why I was taking a photo. I said I thought it was "Interesting." Which is true. He replied, "Thanks!"

We chatted a while.

He was actually a nice guy. We had a pleasant conversation. Granted, we didn't bring up the Second Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America. We didn't have to. We didn't have to talk Obamacare or guns or gays. It didn't matter if he knew I was gay or not. Not to me. Not then. Not there. The stars were still out. We just talked.

We don't have to be so bitterly, vindictively divisive and hateful toward each other. Not all the time. Let's stop playing cruel Internet trolls and get out and meet each other. Let's shut off our TV, computers and phones and go say hi to our friends, neighbors, and even strangers.


"United We Stand! ... "

I recently had two surprisingly pleasant and civil online exchanges with two different anonymous people with whom I bitterly disagree. It took effort. It's humbling. Couldn't we all be more humble?


Eight years ago I met John Warner, former secretary of the Navy and five-term Republican senator from Virginia. I was testifying before a Senate Committee about the impacts of climate change on wildlands and wildlife. He was impressed by my testimony and invited me to have a chat with him in his office afterward. Mostly, he wanted to talk about Montana because he had visited a few times and loved the Big Sky state. Warner was the only Republican to publicly denounce Marine general and commandant Peter Pace, then chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, when he told the Chicago Tribune in 2007 that "homosexual acts between individuals are immoral, and that we should not condone immoral acts." John Warner supported repeal of "don't ask, don't tell." During our conversation, he mentioned how he missed the days when legislators could have heated partisan debates yet still be friends, respect each other, and not just walk in lockstep along party lines. He seemed sad that those days were apparently coming to an end. He's a nice guy.

Last February, while in Washington, D.C., my son and I met with Republican congressman Steve Daines of Montana, who is now running for the U.S. Senate. My son has Duchenne muscular dystrophy, and we were urging him to support the Muscular Dystrophy Care Act. I can't think of much I agree on with Steve Daines, but he sure was sincerely nice to my son. He took him out onto the House floor and let him cast a few votes, introduced him to other congressional representatives, and personally called my son a few days later to let him know he signed on as a cosponsor to the bill. He helped champion the passage of the Act. He's a nice guy.

"Never lose sight of the fact that the most important yardstick of your success will be how you treat other people -- your family, friends, and coworkers, and even strangers you meet along the way."-- Barbara Bush

"It takes a village." -- Hillary Clinton

They were both right. Weren't they?

At least about that?

Can't we admit that?


I miss my dad. I loved him. He loved me.

He voted for Ronald Reagan and the first President Bush.

He was a World War II combat Marine and a Boy Scout leader. He passed on to me a passion for fishing, hiking, camping, and the natural world. We were both Eagle Scouts. We were both Marines. We both loved Montana. He was a good, humble man. He was known for often saying "Be nice!"

I miss my dad. I loved him. He loved me.

He voted for Ronald Reagan and the first President George Bush.

He and my mom loved each other. They were together for 50 years. No. Forget that. She is still alive, he is not, but they are still together. They still love each other.

My mom voted for Bill Clinton and Barack Obama.

So did I.

"Why can't we all just get along?"

I hope we can all at least still agree on this:

E pluribus unum (From many, one.)

"Divided We Fall!"


DAVE STALLING is a writer and advocate based in Missoula, Mont., and he blogs at Noons at Midnight

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