There are two subjects that we, collectively as a society, have difficulty discussing; religion and politics. For whatever reason, even in this state of lawn signs and first in the nation primaries, we hold our political and religious beliefs close to our vest and we rarely discuss these subjects with anyone but our closest of friends, despite often having very strong beliefs about each. Perhaps in part because of that, or perhaps because I just haven’t decided yet if it is appropriate for me to discuss politics in this venue, I have kept silent here in regards to the upcoming presidential election. I have friends that are far left and I have friends that are far right and I have many who fill the gradient between the two. While I do not agree exactly with the beliefs of any one of my friends, I respect the right of all of them to have their beliefs no matter how much they may differ from my own.
Putting aside the many proposals, platforms, stances and opinions that I may or may not agree with, there is rhetoric in this presidential campaign that I feel cannot be ignored. “I am not a debater, but I am a winner. If I am elected I will make this country a total winner”, declared Mr. Trump after a debate last fall in the primary. Time after time, for a year now, Mr. Trump has repeated this same theme, stating, in so many words, I am a winner and if you are with me you are a winner too, if you are against me, then you are a loser.
Whether one agrees with what Mr. Trump espouses for policy, whether or not you support his candidacy, is not the issue here. The problem that warrants discussion is that as soon as you declare a large group of people winners, you are, by definition, calling all of the others, losers. This winners/losers division immediately discounts and marks invalid any opinion that disagrees with that of the “winners”.
There are some things that are yes or no issues. If one is dropped in the middle of a lake, whether you can swim to shore or not is a yes/no proposition, in this case with grave consequences. Likewise, whether one can ride a bike is a yes or no question, also with dramatic consequences if, let's say, one finds themselves rolling down a hill on two wheels. But examples like these aside - most of which deal with skills or abilities - the world is not black and white, Mr. Trump, and opinions and beliefs, whether they align or not with your thinking, are equally as valid as your own. Further, labeling one a loser, closes down the discussion and the valuable insight one may have on issues that are not so diametrically opposed to your own beliefs. I have said before, in this blog, everyone has something to teach me.
Sometimes I meet people who do not know that I guide hikes and other explorations, and when I tell them they say something to the effect of, “I have always wanted to hike but I cannot do that.” Somewhat facetiously I ask if they can walk, and when they look at me quizzically, I say, “If you can walk, you can hike.” If you can walk two miles, I can take you a mile into the wilderness and show you places you could not imagine existing in NH. If you can walk one mile, I can show you glens just a half a mile into the woods where the stillness and tranquility will rival that of the most sacred of sanctuaries, and even if you can only walk a couple of city blocks, there are waterfalls we can hike to that will refresh and energize your soul. If you can only walk a few blocks, we will not get you to the top of some mountain with one hundred mile views, but that does not mean that you cannot imbibe of the restorative powers of the wilderness and get to know the peace and solemnity of the woods that once covered this country.
Everyone can hike, and everyone has the right to reap the rewards that a foray into the woods may provide. Hiking, like so many things in life, is broad spectrum and there are a myriad of permutations. The world is not divided into hikers and non-hikers, there are a million shades of grey between those black and white extremes and, in this presidential election season, please remember that our country, too, is not divided into winners and losers but instead into a very broad spectrum of beliefs and values. Everyone’s opinion, whether it aligns with yours or not, is equally valid and important.