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Living in a Polarized World?

We went for a hike on Saturday. We go every weekend. Sometimes with friends, sometimes alone. We are, well, at least two of us are – destination hikers. We hike for the reward at the end, which is snacks and drinks of some kind. (It changes depending on the season – ohhh a seasonal menu! Who new hiking could entail such delights.)

Strangely, our hiking spots are situated in close proximity to biker bars. Not cycling bars, because let’s face it, there is no such thing. What would they serve, wheat grass and almonds? No, these are Harley Davidson biker bars. The real kind.

We hike in different areas, not near to each to other, but both start and stop with biker bars. Serendipity, it would appear.

One spot in particular is a combination though. Combination biker bar, horse bar, hiker bar, mountain biker bar. If you were designing a bar for desired demographics, this would be a tough one to conceive of. I’m not sure which group was by accident. The horses, mountain bikers and hikers all use the park, and the bikers just like the bar, so who knows.

And yet, I hear constantly by the media that we’re living in a divided country. We’re polarized beyond belief and comprehension with no way forward or out of our current condition. Our only choice it seems, is to wallow in it, and talk about it continuously on TV, 24 hours a day.

And I suppose it’s true that if you asked these groups their particular political party, you’d get very different answers among them. (I secretly suspect the political parties themselves are responsible for the polarization, because it ensures their survival, but I digress). But I also think if you were to ask people in general their views on any issue, there would be lots of disagreement. It’s human nature to hold differing thoughts and ideas.

So, it stands to reason that the bikers, horse people, mountain bikers and hikers probably belong to different political parties and that they don’t share common political thoughts on policy or ideology.

I’d even suppose that the only common thoughts they share is they like being outdoors, they like food and drink and they like the company of other human beings. That’s probably where the commonality ends. And yet, there we all are, together, in our deeply polarized world.

The biker clubs, 2 or 3 tables full, all decked in leather with their club patches. The women with their fashion touches – a splash of bright color, and silver jewelry popping in the sunlight.

The horse people – 3 generations riding together – grandma, mom, and young daughters. Braids, flannel shirts and Wellington boots, are all they need.

The hikers with their wool hats, waterproof jackets and designer boots, all tucked in and organized, hiking in pairs or with friends.

And lastly, the renegades. The mountain bikers. Covered in mud, always outside, because they’re too dirty to go in, always underdressed for the weather, impervious to the cold. A mess really, but truth be told, the happiest group among them all. They’re there by themselves, in couples, families, friends – whoever’s dumb enough to do what they do, is welcome. And if it’s just they dumb enough – well, they love their own company just as well.

And then there’s the waitstaff. Floating through this maze of cliques. Treating them all the same. Appreciating or at least making a gallant effort to appreciate each group’s ethos, and what they care about. Serving them Orange Crushes, honey fried chicken sandwiches and nachos. (One of the benefits of demanding outdoor activity, btw, is you get to reward yourself with a lot of calories. Hence the destination hiking).

Often the groups interact, exchanging pleasantries - comments on the trails, conditions or equipment. The group that gets the most love are the horse people. They have the best equipment. And they’re tied to the hitching posts (the horses, not the people) by the bar, so everyone gets to see them, and the horses are part of the community too. Usually, we’ve seen them out on the trails early, or at least their poop anyway.

The bikers’ equipment gets a lot of love as well. All the chrome and bright paint jobs lined up in formation outside with such pride. They are a beautiful spectacle to behold, each one unique. No one takes better care of their equipment than the bikers and horse people.

The mountain bikers? Yeah, not so much. I mean they may have great equipment; they probably do. But who would know? It’s covered in mud. They are covered in mud; their bikes are covered in mud. Did I mention they are the happiest of the lot? Correlation? Hmmm….

No one cares about the hikers’ equipment. They really don’t have any, and what they do have isn’t interesting.

And so, it goes until it’s time to go. The horse people mount up and ride off. The bikers all collecting together, rev their engines to signal their departure. The hikers hobble back to their cars. And the mountain bikers load up their piles of mud into the bed of their pickup truck, leaving half the mud in their wake.

All back to wherever and whatever they do, until we meet back again next week. The waiters will be waiting. What a polarized world.

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