When my wife and I went on a short vacation last week to see her grandmother, we kept encountering conversations with people concerned about the problems of our nation. On hikes, in restaurants, while shopping, people were talking about the economy, about the elections, about the hurricane hitting the South. We spent a wonderful time with my inlaws and my wife’s grandmother. Even in the far off island of Kauai, however, the problems of the world were in everyone’s minds.
The Kuilau Trail is a wonderful trail that is a short distance from our hotel in Kapa’a. It was full of lush trees and beautiful views of the hillside and the Pacific. As we hiked, we heard many exotic birds, as well as the ever present chickens. As my wife and I hiked we met up with two women and began talking with them. They were a couple from San Francisco, and Lisa and I found ourselves enjoying their company. We decided to hike together, and we found that our new friends shared many of the same interests that we did about the news of the country.
Sarah Palin was a big topic of conversation. Palin had just had her convention speech a couple of days ago and some polls showed that her presence had helped McCain gain more approval among voters than Obama. We all were deeply worried about a possible McCain presidency. The women felt a bit exasperated that Palin was the woman who would be a heartbeat away from the Presidency, especially when her credentials suffered in comparison to Hillary’s. As a lesbian couple, they were very wary of Palin’s social conservatism. It had to be admitted though that her speech was very good, and that she had an appealing biography. Thinking back on that conversation now, we spent all that time talking about Palin and hardly ever mentioned McCain or Obama.
They were also worried about a proposition in California to ban gay marriages. They are planning on getting married next year in a private ceremony. I told them not to worry; the proposition is losing in the polls and most Californians are much more worried about the economy and the environment than gay marriages. We mentioned that we have close friends who were married in Newsom’s brief ceremonies in 2004 and they expresses admiration for Newsom.
During the rest of our hike, our conversation meandered on more mundane topics: friends, family, work. We all had dreams of owning a house someday. We talked about an organic garden that was in the front of San Francisco’s City Hall, and enthused about the growing popularity of farmer’s markets in the Bay Area. We talked about religion, and our search for a spirituality that spoke to us. When the hike was over, I was sad to see them go.
This trip was a chance for me to get to bond with my father in law. It was a fun time. While my wife shopped with her mother, we went to a short trip to a coffee plantation and talked about the elections and the economy. Palin once again was a big topic of discussion. I’m a Democrat and my father in law is a Republican, so we had our political differences. Yet we both love our country and shared a deep concern about the economy and America’s dependence on oil. There was a general agreement that this has been the most interesting election season that either one of us has ever witnessed. Both of us have closely followed the primaries and now the general elections and we shared our insights about the candidates. I came out of those conversations feeling closer to my father in law and more understanding of his point of view. Towards the end of the trip we heard of the troubles of Lehman and Merril Lynch, and it cast a pall on our flight home.
Underlying the many conversations in Kauai was a fear and worry about the direction our country was taking. The bad news in Wall Street, the high gas prices, the talk of global warming, the mortgage crisis all gave us a sense of dread. It was odd that we didn’t talk about Iraq. In spite of these worries, we still had a great vacation. When we talked about the elections, we had some positive hope that change was possible.