Our depolarized Outer Banks reunion, with some wild horses
by Rob Tiller
Last week we had a family reunion at Corolla, on the Outer Banks of North Carolina. All told, there were 29 Tillers and their close connections, from several states, ranging in age from a few weeks to 69. We took up three beach houses and gathered together to go to the beach, have dinner, and play games.
We had pleasant weather, and the water was warm enough for swimming, though some straw had washed up on the beach during a previous storm. Just north of Corolla, the beach is open to four wheel drive vehicles, and I took mine up there to look for the resident wild horses. I made these pictures, among others. It was cheering to see these big animals making their own way and looking calm and reasonably healthy.
There was a sort of elephant in the room at this family reunion, which was a strong divergence of political views. As regular readers have probably noted, my politics are far from conservative, as are those of a few other relations. Probably a majority of the other Tillers identify strongly as conservatives. In this time of extreme political polarization, with many primed to see politics in terms of a battle of good versus evil, some wondered, how would we get along?
The answer, it turned out, was just fine. We found plenty of things in common, like kids, jobs, food, sports, houses, and family memories. There was a lot of laughter. It’s easy to overemphasize the significance of political differences, and to forget how much of our lives has little to do with our political allegiances. Our reunion was a good reminder: we all (Tillers, and of course, others too) are closely tied, and those ties are important.
The reunion also reminded me that there are plenty of differences of opinions among those on the conservative side. The loudness and shrillness of right-wing media is misleading in many ways, including giving the impression of a conservative monolith.
I don’t mean to suggest that political differences are unimportant, especially now. The transformation of the Republican party into the party of Trump, with its gloves-off program to seize power is still happening. Republican leaders all across the country are passing new laws to increase the likelihood that they won’t lose future elections. They’re also passing laws to prevent schools from teaching about topics that inspire questions about the existing social order, like our history of slavery and continuing racism.
But there is a lot of political movement in the opposite direction, addressing some of our biggest problems, including climate change, economic fairness, health care, institutionalized violence, and education. In the face of radical Trumpism, President Biden is boring in a good way — practical and down to earth. Perhaps this is the storm before the calm.
Speaking of earth and hope, two cheers for the President’s 30 by 30 initiative: conservation of 30 percent of our land and water by 2030. So far, this hasn’t made big headlines, but it should help in addressing both global warming and the biodiversity crisis. Some fifty other countries are working on this same goal. Non-human animals are usually ignored as humans pursue their goals, to their and our great loss. While I tend to go with E.O. Wilson, who has advocated a target of protecting 50 percent, it’s a good start.