During the political season—which lately seems to be 24/7 and year-round—the beliefs, opinions, prejudices, and preferences that divide this nation are clear. Often they’re not only clear, they’re magnified or blown out of proportion by one side or the other.
But these “big things” aren’t all that separate us into groups and set our diverse agendas. Every time I check into a hotel, twirl the radio dial to a particular station, drive on the freeway, or select a sandwich spread, I make a choice that defines me or act according to one I made in the past.
Every day, every one of us makes choices that set us apart from others—choices that may be so ingrained and automatic we can’t remember when the opinion was formed or who influenced it or when it turned into a way of life or even—in extreme cases—came to be a symbol of our Constitutional right to certain freedoms.
I can almost hear you asking: “What the heck does she mean by that?”
Well, imagine you’re checking into a hotel and you don’t get a choice between smoking or non-smoking rooms. You could end up with the room you wanted, or you could be forced to breathe third-hand smoke or go outside to light up.
Chances are, you wouldn’t be happy about that. In fact, you might be furious. You might rage against the hotel and “that other group of people.”
Or let’s say you visit your aunt Matilda and she makes you a BLT but, instead of mayonnaise, she uses another spread. If you’re firmly in the mayo-is-best camp, it will be tough to choke down that sandwich.
Now suppose your aunt tells you to stop being so picky because “there’s no difference between mayo and the other stuff.”
Is she serious?
That’s like saying there’s no difference between black and white, summer and winter. Sheesh.
The Great Sandwich Spread Skirmish could turn you against your aunt if she refuses to budge on the issue and admit that there is a difference and you have a right to your preference. The dispute could even escalate, dividing your family and turning you against anyone who doesn’t agree mayonnaise is the right stuff. You might take to picketing stores that carry other spreads and even (gasp!) allow them to mingle with the mayo on the shelves.
From there, it’s a short hop to setting up gated all-mayo communities and working to pass laws to outlaw other spreads. And it’s another short hop to taking aim at other divisive issues:
- Dark vs. Milk Chocolate
- Coffee vs. Tea
- Dogs vs. Cats
- Classic Rock vs. Rap
- Cheese Puffs vs. Corn Chips
- Dieters vs. Those who can eat all they want
- Neatniks vs. Slobs
- Procrastinators vs. Get-there-on-timers
- Speeders vs. Slow-pokes-who-drive-the-limit
- Shaken vs. Stirred
- Well-cooked vs. Rare (or even raw)
- Toilet Seat Up vs. Toilet Seat Down
Fortunately, most of us will never get that worked up. And for many of us, the lines of opinion blur and we slip back and forth across them in the course of our lives. We learn to appreciate things we didn’t like when we were young—types of music, kinds of food, the need to be more organized, the reasoning behind posted speed limits.
But if you’re like me, there are lines you’ll never cross, opinions you’ll never compromise on until and unless you’re forced to. That’s why I’ll make a sandwich my way until I scrape the last smear of mayonnaise from the bottom of the last jar on earth.
What are the division lines in your life? What are you willing to be flexible about and what would you never give an inch on? Leave a comment and get your name in the drawing for a copy of No Substitute for Murder.
Carolyn J. Rose is the author of a number of novels, including recent titles A Place of Forgetting, An Uncertain Refuge, No Substitute for Murder, and Hemlock Lake. She and her husband, Mike Nettleton, penned two cozy mysteries, The Big Grabowski and Sometimes a Great Commotion.
She grew up in New York’s Catskill Mountains, graduated from the University of Arizona, logged two years in Arkansas with Volunteers in Service to America, and spent 25 years as a television news researcher, writer, producer, and assignment editor in Arkansas, New Mexico, Oregon, and Washington. She lives in Vancouver, Washington, and founded the Vancouver Writers’ Mixers. Her interests are reading, gardening, and not cooking.