The only way we can start to make things better is by finding venues for us to have respectful and engaging conversations with people who might not agree with us. (Left: Courtesy photo; right: Kristen Tomkowid/Special to S.F. Examiner)

The only way we can start to make things better is by finding venues for us to have respectful and engaging conversations with people who might not agree with us. (Left: Courtesy photo; right: Kristen Tomkowid/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Pussy hats and Trump hats, it’s time to talk

http://sfexaminer.com/category/the-city/sf-news-columns/broke-ass-city/

There is no shortage of heart-warming stories, sad anecdotes and think-pieces about what went on last week in Washington, D.C. Some say this is the American Experiment finally taking an unrecoverable nosedive. Others say this is the start of the next grand social movement.

Having been roughly 30 rows back from where President Donald Trump was inaugurated and also having been in the thick of the Women’s March, I’m still trying to piece together my final thoughts about what it all means. I can say I’m grateful to legendary press agent Lee Houskeeper for putting me up and getting me tickets to the inauguration, and I’m thankful to my buddy Chef Ryan Scott for giving me airline miles to get out there. The rest of it I’m still digesting.

Of all the many people I met and fascinating interactions I had, the most important one was at the airport right before I left to fly home. The airport that day was surreal. There seemed to be just as many Trump hats as there were Pink Pussy Power hats. Yet despite the intensity of the previous few days, everyone was behaving as if things were normal.

Sitting down next to a middle-aged white woman, I noticed her pink coat and asked if she’d been at the Women’s March.

“No,” she told me. “I know I look like it because of my coat, but I was bumped from a flight and just happened to be here. I’m on my way home to Minneapolis from Costa Rica.”

We got to talking about the previous few days. I had told her how I’d gone out to D.C. specifically to protest the inauguration and to partake in the Women’s March.

“Wow, that’s neat,” she said. “Are there women in your life that make you want do that?”

“I was marching for all the women in my life and all the women in the world,” I told her.

Things progressed from there. I told her I was an agnostic Jew; she told me she was a Christian who did missionary work and that she had a lot of respect and admiration for the Jewish religion.

“I don’t have a problem with any kind of people other than Muslim terrorists,” she said.

“All religions have extremists,” I replied. “Even Christianity has terrorists. Just look at the KKK or the Westoboro Baptist Church.”

This blew her mind. “Wow, I never really thought about that.”

We talked some more, and she told me how, in her previous job as a teacher, being white had excluded her from getting work because of hiring quotas. She followed that with, “But being a woman helped me get my current job in advertising because they were hiring for diversity.”

On the other side of the woman I was talking to was another middle-aged white woman, with whom I began chatting when the first woman got up to use the restroom. She was a federal prosecutor, also from Minneapolis (that’s where my connecting flight was), and had come to D.C. to participate in the Women’s March with her daughter who lived there.

Once the first woman returned, the three of us continued to talk about the Women’s March. The second woman had been doing pro bono legal work for the Minneapolis Planned Parenthood for more than a decade. This led to she and I explaining to the first woman how little of what Planned Parenthood does is actual abortions. The first woman didn’t know that most of what PP does is give free health care to men and women who can’t afford it otherwise.

“That’s so interesting,” she said. “Nobody ever told me about that.”

Shortly after that, we all boarded the flight, and I never saw either of them again. But it got me thinking …

The only way we can start to make things better is by finding venues for us to have respectful and engaging conversations with people who might not agree with us. I don’t know how or where, I just know that being in an airport full of both people in Trump hats and people in Pussy hats, is a very rare thing.

If one of you reading this wants to help facilitate these conversations, I will do everything I can to support them.

Stuart Schuffman, aka Broke-Ass Stuart, is a travel writer, TV host and poet. Follow him at BrokeAssStuart.com. Broke-Ass City runs Thursdays in the San Francisco Examiner.

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