I recently spent a wonderful day touring unspoiled and remote Daufuskie Island, South Carolina ably guided by my friend and fellow author, Roger Pinckney Xi. Daufuskie is a haunting and beautiful place, situated in the Calibogue Sound between Hilton Head and Savannah, accessible only by boat. It attracts independent, self-sufficient souls like Roger and his fellow Daufuskie 100, the characters who refused to listen to federal officials and even their own governor, Nikki Haley, and chose to ride out last year's hurricane rather than abandon their homes.
Turns out they made the right choice. Though the island forests, marinas, and roadways (most still unpaved) on Daufuskie suffered horrific damage, much of it still visible today, the residents banded together, pulled out their tools, and made substantial progress clearing debris before FEMA or state officials made it to the island. More importantly, not a single person who remained on Daufuskie was injured. In fact, the only injury a 'fuskie resident suffered was one unfortunate woman who chose to evacuate and broke her ankle when she went skating in Savannah.
Looking only at the labels, one might think that Roger and I represent opposite ends of the cultural spectrum that mirrors our nation's political divide and therefore would have nothing in common. Roger is a true Son of the South, descended from one of the first families of the Founding Generation (two signers of the Constitution and a candidate for vice president) and officers of the Confederacy. My lineage in the U.S. is a little over 100 years old and none of my family has ever lived south of DC. Roger's an avid outdoorsman and hunter. I like hikes on nice improved bike paths, and the only gun I've fired is a squirt gun. We love vacationing on Hilton Head Island, and Roger calls it "Hilton Hell," or in his granny's words, "another perfectly good place the Yankees spoiled." Roger supported Trump in the last election and, well, I didn't.
But when we get past the labels, Roger and I both recognize kindred spirits when we see one, love to learn and talk about our nation's history, and choose to see the good in people from what they do and how they treat other people rather than from what they think. We can spend hours together in lively conversation and the topics can touch upon politics. But we both leave better informed than when we started, and find there's a lot more we agree on than disagree.
I wish there were a way that more people would get to look past the code words and colors -- be they blue or red, gray or blue, or black or white -- and see each other as people. Maybe it's easier to think that way on a place as rugged and remote, yet utterly civilized, as Daufuskie, where the residents are all hearty and independent yet know that the key to surviving its wilderness is being there to help each other. But I can't help but think that if we looked at each other one man or woman at a time we'd find that we all have a lot in common, and that the labels we allow ourselves to use often do nothing more than serve to keep us apart.