“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.” — Mark Twain
So I’ve been mulling a fix for our political situation. So what I propose is this: We’ll call it The Big Shuffle*. Every five years, people will be reassigned new places to live, so that at any given time, 10 percent of the population has been shifted somewhere new. Kids have to start new schools, city folk have to move to a rural town and vice versa.
You’d have new people moving in all the time, and you’d have new ideas, new cuisine, new friends and enemies. You’d have to make people welcome and help them find their footing, and in turn, when you moved, you’d get the same welcome. And most importantly, you’d have to learn to think the best of everyone, because you’d find yourself in the same situation eventually.
People would have to learn to say Coke instead of pop, hoagies instead of heroes. They’d learn new favorite pizzas. NASCAR fans would become IndyCar fans. I know, right?!
It would take such courage, to both arrive in town and to meet the new arrivals. On Shuffle Day, everyone would come out to Main Street or Market Street or Fifth Avenue, and applaud the moving vans coming to town. When your new neighbors settled in, you’d bring over casseroles and tell them about their predecessors, and ask where they’re from and say, “I was there in 2017! That was the first year of The Big Shuffle! Do you know–”
And they would know! And you’d talk about these folks who were friends and neighbors and how you still keep in touch.
And you’d teach them where the best coffee is and the best diner and the best date night restaurant (all of which change, because of course business owners would shuffle too.) And your kids and their kids would become friends, and if you didn’t have kids, your dogs and their dogs would become friends.
And you’d have to learn to live light, right? So maybe all the things tying us down, both physical and metaphysical, will have to be released, allowing us to move about with freedom and lightness. We could become a nomadic culture, and instead of viewing strangers with suspicion, since we will all be strangers at some time, we would view them with recognition and welcome.
Oh, it would take such courage, but can you imagine what we’d get in return? No longer would we exist at the mercy of those who want to build walls (yes, I’m going there) between us, as if these walls had any value other than to keep us frightened of our own humanity and unable to recognize humanity in others.
It’s a crazy idea. To leave behind everything I’ve worked for, you cry. This house, this home, this yard, my roots. But that’s just it — nomads bring their roots with them. And you won’t leave behind who you are. Just stuff that you have.
So what do you think? Who is ready to make the first move? Can you imagine, moving in next to someone you’ve never met before, and they offer you a casserole and hold out their hand in welcome? “Hello, ” they will say. “Where are you from? Oh, my sister lived there five years ago. Did you know–”
And you will know.
*A spin on The Big Sort, which is how Americans have settled into these tribal districts and we don’t talk to anyone outside of our own echo chamber anymore.