Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Running the Race


Mississippi is am iconic Southern State as it is perceived as perhaps the most racist, ignorant, poverty ridden state in the Americas.  I have no idea why but even other Southerners say, "Well we could be Mississippi."  Great!  And in fact Mississippi is 50 on the states with the least education. It was the subject of a movie - Mississippi Burning - s loosely based on the 1964 Chaney, Goodman, and Schwerner murder investigation in Mississippi about registering black voters.  Or the Ghosts of Mississippi about the murder of civil rights activist, Medgar Evers.  Gee MLK was assassinated in Memphis and there is no hate there for that nor is Tennessee eviscerated for that and we are the home of Andrew Jackson and the home of the KKK.   This is not the best among the worst or is it?

Mississippi economically ranks consistently in the bottom.  The national median income is $55,775, but Mississippi lagged that number by more than $15,000. And many Mississippians understand poverty all too well; 11.5 percent earn $10,000 or less annually, the highest extreme poverty rate of any state. There aren’t that many affluent households in the state, either. Only 2.1 percent of Mississippi households earn $200,000 or more a year, the lowest such share among all states.

So there is no upside to living in Mississippi.  I am not sure why as there is equal amount of idiocy among all the Southern states.   But the south suffers from what is called "Crab Mentality."

Crab mentality, sometimes referred to as crabs in the bucket, is a phrase that describes a way of thinking best described by the phrase "if I can't have it, neither can you." The metaphor refers to a pot of crabs. Individually, the crabs could easily escape from the pot, but instead, they grab at each other in a useless "king of the hill" competition which prevents any from escaping and ensures their collective demise. The analogy in human behavior is sometimes claimed to be that members of a group will attempt to "pull down" (negate or diminish the importance of) any member who achieves success beyond the others, out of envy, conspiracy or competitive feelings, although this is not the behavior being exhibited by the crabs which are simply trying to escape themselves, without any knowledge or understanding of the supposed "success" of their fellow creatures. Thus the analogy fails and can be seen as merely the attempt to shore up a pre-existing political viewpoint using a spurious appeal to "natural" behaviour..

The South has that underdog mentality and it may be tied to the Civil War but again race is a very third rate issue when it comes to level of importance.  First is money, the second is God and the third is actually family and particularly where your people are from and the role of the Matriarch in determining one's personal success and yet this is a society ruled by men.  And the role of the Church, from the pulpit toe polls, is not just about Voters but about those who hold Office. Where one went to Church, one's roll in the Church hierarchy is also critical and that crosses racial lines as Pastors and others who hold rolls in their Church find themselves often placed in public office. And that may explain the mis-management and where bias and in turn prejudice comes in.  The roll of the sermon and the idea of religious ethics in daily lives is what they define as free will and that is their version of the free market.  They are not educated nor informed enough to understand the difference and hence the weird notion that Ayn Rand shared, that corporations are people and in turn people will go out of their way to protect their self interest.  Sure polluting the air and water has no affect on those who live upstream but those down, well its God's will for if you were working hard enough and were faithful you wouldn't live there.   Sure I can see this actually being debated in the Board Room!

Below are two articles on the Southern issues that are about both race and politics.  And you can see that change and attitude come from within and when access and availability or opportunity and necessity put people together in which to learn and in turn change and grow.  That is most places occurs in schools and hence desegregation but again that is forced and that resistance to government and forced change DOES go back to the Civil War and again this is a tribal place where ancestory and history go hand in hand.  "Where are your people from?"  is not an unheard question.

The reality is that we are very confused about race and ethnicity in this country and it crosses economics and states.  It does not mean that the better educated or the wealthier are any less racist or prejudice they are just better at avoiding the subject as it enables one to be more insular and selective. We have long had issues about "others" whoever the "other" is at the moment, be that Jews, Women, Italians, Asians, now Muslims, Latinos and "others" who are labeled and marginalized as such.

But the South for some reason continues in its crab mentality and in turn they see everyone as their enemy unless otherwise designated. They are insular in their way the rich are only they use verbiage and terminology that makes it more obvious.  And that is why despite having close working relationships with "others" not like them there is the water always waiting to boil and the reality is that you want to be the top crab just for a moment.  Logic, critical thinking, rationale all go out the window when emotions are in play.  I see it in the children and they grow up to be Adults and some of them don't.  Race is a factor but the reality is more complex.

The Guardian UK

Bartender Krista Hinman grew up a racist, she now admits openly. But she now speaks out loudly in Mississippi against white supremacy.

The first song Krista Hinman learned to play on the piano was Dixie, the de facto battle hymn of the Confederate States of America. She learned the minstrel-song-turned-slavery-anthem growing up in Southaven, Mississippi, a predominantly white suburb of Memphis, Tennessee.

“Everything I ever did was white,” Hinman, now 44 and a professional bartender, says on a southern-hot afternoon in the courtyard behind her apartment in Jackson, Mississippi’s majority-black capital city.

The Ku Klux Klan, the white gang that rose again to terrorize black residents during the civil rights movement, had mostly died down by the time of Hinman’s childhood – yet her neighbor in the 1970s had remained a member.

Was she racist herself?

“Oh yeah,” Hinman says. Born in 1974, she admits to regularly dropping the N-word and delighting in racist jokes with friends. “I was all in. I believed every single bit of it … all the ‘heritage’ stuff.”

She often regurgitated revisionist civil war tropes long embedded in southern textbooks: that secession wasn’t over slavery; that the war was a glorious uprising against federal tyranny; that slaves were happy and adored their masters until the Yankees up north riled them up. She also defended the Confederate flag and monuments.

Hinman’s parents did not want racist jokes and the N-word inside their home. Still, while watching the TV show In the Heat of the Night when she was a kid, she quipped that she might bring home a black boyfriend, angering her father.

“I would beat your ass to New York and back,” he said.

Many white southerners had adopted an uneven racial code since violent responses to civil rights gains in the 1960s. “He didn’t believe in total racism,” Hinman says of her father, “but you weren’t bringing [black people] home.”

But in her 20s, while studying at the University of Mississippi, Hinman’s views changed. She made liberal friends. Her friend Kiki described growing up on the black side of their wealthy college town, where whites seldom ventured and children enjoyed fewer opportunities. Hinman came to believe that racism is not just interpersonal name-calling, but systemic denial of equity and equality – in education, the workplace, political representation, housing, healthcare and everyday life.

We’ve done really horrible stuff to black people in the name of superiority
Krista Hinman

Hinman realized that many whites are conditioned to believe lies that people of color were biologically inferior, more prone to crime, lazier. “It’s about a sense of superiority,” she says. “I might live in a trailer in Tchula, Mississippi, but at least somehow I can say I’m ‘better’ than these other people … We’ve done really horrible stuff to black people in the name of superiority.”

Today, she joins a growing chorus of Mississippians of wildly different backgrounds eager to talk about their racial miseducation in the hope to help bridge US racial divides – and that requires unexpurgated truth.

She now believes that the Mississippi flag and public Confederate statues memorialize oppression. “They all need to come down,” she says.

Paradoxically, Mississippi is probably the site of the most race dialogues in the country, at least per capita.

Historian Susan Glisson, 50, was pivotal to Mississippi’s public reckoning when she helped create a forum at the University of Mississippi in 1997 during then president Bill Clinton’s national race initiative. That effort morphed into the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation, which designed “Welcome Table” dialogues around Mississippi between people of different races and beliefs.

“We don’t start talking about race,” says Glisson. “We start at the level of a human being to help people become self-reflective about who they are, their values. We build a bridge of trust.” Only then is it possible to contextualize 500 years of the history of racism and unpack systems that sustain white supremacy long after slavery ended, she explains.

It really should be white folks doing that work with white folks
Susan Glisson

“It’s not a model based on blaming and shaming,” Glisson says of her approach. And white people – including progressives who think they have it figured out – need to show up and listen to make it happen, she says. “It really should be white folks doing that work with white folks.”

Glisson applauds the public outing of white supremacists who rioted in Charlottesville in 2017. “Them motherfuckers lost their jobs,” she says approvingly, pointing to the active bystanderism often missing in earlier decades, with people filming racist events. But she still invites racists into circles without yelling and name-calling, which won’t build relationships that facilitate education.

“We have to do both in a smart way,” she says, pointing to Hannah Arendt’s political friendships. It’s basic math, she believes: the more racists redirected, the fewer people they will hurt directly or through harmful policies.

Bob Fuller, 56, was a middle school principal in nearby Starkville, Mississippi, when he had an epiphany. Two black teachers there had the last name Coleman – the same name as his slave-owning ancestor. “My ancestors owned their ancestors,” the white academic thought to himself with horror.
Bob Fuller says he grew up a white supremacist on land his family has owned for five generations in Mississippi.

Five generations of Fuller’s family had worked the land in rural Winston county in east central Mississippi, where he and his wife and children still live. Most were yeoman farmers and loggers, but the Coleman ancestors owned slaves.

“People in Iowa don’t have this dynamic,” he says, sitting on a leather sofa in a sprawling farmhouse he built on family land, surrounded by Mississippi history books, folk art and a string of small Tibetan flags. His wife, the Rev Allison Stacey Parvin, is an ordained United Methodist elder and pastor of their nearby church.

“I grew up white supremacist,” he admits. “We thought we were better than black people.” When Fuller was in third grade, the US supreme court forced recalcitrant public schools to integrate, but buses remained segregated for several years; his would pass black kids waiting for a pickup. In his Mississippi history class in 1976, he heard no mention of the freedom fighters who had transformed the state a dozen years earlier. “We never discussed the civil rights movement,” he says.

It took relationships with teachers and families of color to remake him, he says. He soon threw off his blinders and faced the south’s full history.

“The civil war really was over slavery; they tried to sugarcoat it,” he says, adding that it was a “rich man’s war, a poor man’s fight”. A year into the war, the Confederacy voted to allow men who owned 20 or more slaves to stay home.

“It’s the same thing today,” Fuller says, pointing to “a concerted effort” to keep working-class black and white people separate politically despite common interests. “It’s called the southern strategy.”

Fuller is referring to a 1960s partisan realignment in which wealthy Republicans began using racist dog-whistling about black crime and “welfare mothers” to push white southerners to the right.

“They don’t want us to get together,” Fuller says of working-class whites and blacks.

As a principal, Fuller decided to quietly fly the US instead of the state flag – which incorporates the Confederate battle – at his middle school. It was fine until a father, a Virginia native, noticed. “Why ain’t you flyin’ the Mississippi flag?” he asked Fuller. “Ain’t it the state law?”

The man reported Fuller to the district’s central office, which affirmed that the state flag had to go up. Fuller refused, saying district staff would have to hoist it daily, which they did.

Robert Brown faces Fuller, his arms crossed, from an identical sofa. Brown, who is black, got to know Fuller’s wife, Parvin, after a tornado ripped through an African American part of Winston county in 2014, killing 10 and destroying many homes.

Brown, 44, is the son of a bootlegger, later adopted by a black woman who raised him to want more. He now owns the Straight Line Barbershop, but regardless of his present success, Brown wishes he had gone to college.

Instead, he educated himself, especially on the state’s race history. Every chance he gets, he shares with white people what Confederate emblems represent to black Americans. He protested the against the state flag flying over a tornado memorial service where the governor spoke, then unsuccessfully tried to convince city hall to stop flying it on public property.

“I’ve been a rebel, a radical, all my life,” Brown says quietly. But Dylann Roof’s 2015 massacre electrified him. “When nine church members in South Carolina were killed, that was it,” he says. Parvin supported Brown’s efforts, he says. “People like Stacy and others said: ‘I’m so proud of you. I’m behind you 100%.’”

Brown says black people often ask: “Why you worried about that rag?”

“Symbols are a way to let you know subliminally who’s in charge, who’s in control,” he answers. The flag and the Confederate statue in the middle of an intersection in nearby Louisville near his barbershop, tell black people they are still subservient. That’s why it’s vital to remove them from public property, he says.

Brown remembers a black public school civics teacher trying to tell him the civil war wasn’t about slavery, but economics.

“Mister,” Brown responded. “It was about the economics of slavery, on the backs of black people.”

Fuller interjects that “the blood, sweat and tears” from African slaves built the nation. “That is the basis of American wealth, period.” More people, he adds, need to distinguish between wealth and cash-on-hand and understand that white people started out with far more. As an adult, he learned that for every $20 of white wealth, black people have $1.11.

He may have paid a reduced-lunch price in school, Fuller adds, but his family owned his land - unlike his ancestor’s slaves, who never got the “40 acres and a mule” the North promised them after emancipation, blocking them from the wealth-creation path. “I put my land up for hock to borrow money to build this house,” the educator says, gesturing at the large room with wooded views.

By the end of the conversation, Fuller and Brown make plans for a dinner with other like-minded thinkers. “It’s a marathon,” Fuller says of ending white supremacy in the south and the US. “The legacy baton is passed to us.”

“I wish y’all had been sitting here 20 years ago,” Brown adds.

Laurie Myatt, 49, lives in a suburb of Jackson. She recently realized that she’s never sat down in a home for a meal with a black person. “What does that say about how far we’ve come, or not?” she wonders.

She no longer lives in the closed-minded society of rural Raleigh, Mississippi. She escaped Smith county, where the N-word is still common, years ago when she found a larger circle of friends and ideas at Mississippi State.

“You repeat what you know, saying the N-word until forming your own opinion about things,” she says in her living room, across from a wall covered with crosses. “It was common. Not something I’m proud of.”

Myatt started thinking about her own interactions over race and the Confederate flag after reading my Guardian article about Mississippians who still embrace it. She reached out to a black engineer friend who described the pain of seeing a white kid with a rebel flag on their vehicle.

She then asked white friends with similar education. “It doesn’t really bother me,” they told her.

Like many white Mississippians, Myatt’s childhood was pockmarked with the convoluted machinations of white supremacy, creating confusion at whether to flee or adapt, to be ashamed and silent, or to step up to dismantle it. Her father managed a garment factory and integrated hiring when she was a child. But she also recalls running into a former family housekeeper in a grocery story; thrilled, the black woman lifted her in the air and kissed her. The public display of affection angered Myatt’s mother, a history teacher who left her shopping cart in the aisle, grabbed her children, took them home and scrubbed their faces.

Myatt, who calls herself a “very conservative person”, voted for Donald Trump, but isn’t happy with what he is sowing. “He proves to be more of an idiot every day,” she says. “He brings more divisiveness than unity.”

She now hopes to help other white people unlearn false beliefs about black inferiority. “You do what you’re taught, what you see, until you see something else and realize, hey, this isn’t right,” she says.

Physical therapist Lea Campbell, 42, used to drive rural roads in Mississippi and Louisiana to treat people who couldn’t physically leave their homes. Many of the white patients she visited shared “vile, racist statements” with her because she is white. One time, a fireman saw her Obama bumper sticker and started talking about his guns, which she took as a veiled threat.

“I was in their environment and had to conform to their rules,” says the Florida native, who moved with her husband to the Mississippi Gulf coast in 2011. “It was emotionally exhausting.” So she switched to a hospital setting.

Campbell’s mother had been a Vietnam war protester back in her native Michigan. A cross was burned in his yard after her father, a coach, integrated a public school basketball team in Florida. New to Mississippi, she noticed the state flag flying at the Oceans Springs yacht club and shook her head. “This is 2011, and this is Mississippi’s flag.” She didn’t think much more of it.

But in June 2015, the photo of Dylann Roof holding a rebel flag horrified her. “It was an a-ha moment,” Campbell says. Watching the then South Carolina governor, Nikki Haley, remove the flag from the capitol’s grounds inspired her. “She showed courage in a southern state,” Campbell thought. “Why can’t we do it here?”

In 2016, she started the Mississippi Rising Coalition in part to educate people on what the flag stands for – white supremacy – using the #TakeItDownMS hashtag.

“Symbols matter,” she says, sitting on a red porch swing with her bulldogs, Betty and Butter, sniffing around our feet. “… Our flag tells the world, and the people of Mississippi, that we are still struggling with how to live with each other.”

Local white supremacists are not happy with her mission. The United Dixie White Knights of the KKK emailed her two videos calling Mississippi Rising a “homosexual, anti-Christian, liberal, fag, nigger-loving group” that “stands against what the Bible talks about”.

In the video, masked Klansmen stand in front of burning crosses. She also has a collection of flyers thrown into local driveways in plastic bags with peppermint candies to hold them down: they warn that “diversity” is “a weapon meaning anti-white”, with the goal of “white genocide”.

Is Campbell afraid? “Not at all. I’m not scared for a second,” she says, laughing, as her husband fires up the grill. “I’m doing the right thing.”

Louis McFall, 31, shows up late to the cookout at Lea Campbell’s place in need of a drink. Right after he walks into the backyard waving at all his new liberal friends – white, black, Asian, LGBT – she takes him inside and pours him a tall glass of tequila.

McFall was “raised pro-flag”, he says. The state flag flew outside the Oceans Springs hospital, where he came into the world. “I was born under that flag.”

The sandblasting and painting contractor does not believe the flag is racist per se, but that the Klan and neo-Nazis co-opted it. During the civil war, where one of his ancestors fought, the flag supported troops on the battlefield, nothing more, he says.

In 2007, McFall’s black high school friend, Genesis Be, had reached out to a group of friends to discuss the flag (she publicly abhors due, in part, to violence against her family). He had unfriended her on Facebook because he was “tired of her disrespecting it”.

But she invited him into her family home to talk peacefully, to try to reconcile. “Genesis challenged me, she asked me questions,” he says. “I started looking at it from other points of view. My heart opened up.” He soon took his flag down. “It should change because it hurts my neighbors. I’m not going to lose my heritage.”

Be embraces both strategies Susan Glisson says are necessary for effective transformation across race barriers: building respectful relationships with deep listening while being brutally honest about the symbols of ongoing white supremacy.

Lea Campbell saw Be’s video of her friend group’s conversation on YouTube. She called McFall and asked him to dinner, then introduced him to the diverse crowd drawn to Mississippi Rising. As he is still a libertarian who decries big government and welfare for adults, they don’t agree on everything. “Nonetheless, they respect my views, and they don’t dismiss them,” he says.

As McFall talks, he sees one of the black activists at the cookout headed to the door with her young daughter and her elderly mother-in-law. “Wait!” he calls out. “We haven’t had time to visit!” They smile and wave goodbye.

After the interview, McFall joins Campbell on her front porch for a photo. She starts to remove the alternative “Stennis flag” hanging next to her US banner out of respect for her redheaded friend.

“Naw, leave it up,” McFall tells her before they embrace in front of it for pictures.






In a Mississippi Restaurant, Two Americas Coexist Side by Side

By Susan Chira and Ellen Ann Fentress
The New York Times
Oct. 8, 2018

SOUTHAVEN, Miss. — Crystal Walls and Lovetta Green have the easy warmth that comes with working together 23 years, Ms. Walls as a waitress and Ms. Green in the kitchen of the restaurant where everyone in town seems to gather.

They share a fierce loyalty to Dale’s restaurant, its signature chicken and dressing dish, and to the late owner, Dale Graham, who used to slip Ms. Green money to buy her children birthday presents when she was short.

But they agree on virtually nothing about politics, side by side in their separate Americas in the city where President Trump lit into Christine Blasey Ford and the #MeToo movement last week, to cheers from the crowd.

Ms. Walls, 60, who is white, was there with her 16-year-old grandson, rapt. Ms. Green, 45, who is black, stayed away from a president she dislikes so much that she grabs the remote whenever he appears on television.

“I don’t like everything to do with him,” Ms. Green said. “The way he was womanizing, talking bad toward women, I can’t respect him as a president. When he gets up to talk, I just change the TV. From the gate, he just struck me wrong.”

Ms. Walls’s verdict on the rally: “It was pretty awesome.” And on the #MeToo movement: “Any woman can say anything. You know as well as I do, they bring it on themselves, to get up the ladder, to destroy somebody they don’t care for. I think it’s something that should be kept personal. Sure there’s a lot of bad guys in this world doing a lot of things they shouldn’t have been.”

On cable news and social media, hurling insults across the political divide has become the background noise of American life. But in Southaven, a more intimate and constrained dynamic is playing out. Here two friends do not have the luxury of sealing themselves off from those with opposing views. They navigate their differences as part of their daily shifts.

Their lives intersect even as their politics do not. When Ms. Green got her job at Dale’s, Ms. Walls had already been there 23 years, having started at the age of 14 working a 2 p.m. to 11 p.m. shift. The two women lived as children within a few miles of each other in Whitehaven, just across the Tennessee border. (When she was 7, Ms. Walls moved to Nesbit, Miss., just nine miles from Southaven.) They both spent years raising their children as single parents. They commiserate about crime and watch their grandchildren like hawks.

It took a while for them to open up to each other about politics, but that reticence is long gone.

“We can talk about it but sometimes it gets heated and we have to bring ourselves down to reality,” Ms. Green said. “Somebody might have to come out of the office and say, ‘What the heck is going on?’”

Take their sparring about President Trump’s comments about Dr. Blasey’s testimony. They agreed they couldn’t understand why women had waited so long to confront men they accused of assault, whether in the case of Bill Cosby or Brett M. Kavanaugh. And they both drew a distinction between rape and attempted rape.

Ms. Walls said her own daughter was raped, beaten and left unconscious in a motel about 20 years ago. That led her to be more skeptical of Dr. Blasey’s account of continuing trauma and gaps in memory, as well as any explanation that post-traumatic stress disorder might be to blame.

“PTSD, c’mon, get real,” she said. “Maybe she needs to talk to some servicemen that really understand PTSD. It’s not that I don’t understand rape, big time. But if it affects you that bad, which it did my daughter, you go to counseling, whatever you need to do. My daughter’s gone on just fine with her life.”

So when President Trump launched into an imitation of Dr. Blasey’s testimony, Ms. Walls found herself laughing along, if a bit guiltily. Ms. Green countered that when Dr. Blasey first testified, President Trump had told aides he thought she came across as sincere. Then he turned on her at the rally.

“And he got up there and they say he mocked her when he was at the center, that just doesn’t sit well with me,” she said. “That means you are flip-flopping on their side. As the president, you shouldn’t have mocked her, period, even though Kavanaugh is going up for judge.”

Ms. Walls: “Even though what he said was true.”

Ms. Green: “Shut up, C. Quit it. See, this is how we get started.”

But even as they square off, they are careful with each other, reaching out to pat an arm or clutch a hand, sometimes even backing down a bit. Ms. Walls told her friend that she agreed it was unseemly for a president to act that way. “He should have been quiet, showed a little bit more integrity,” she said. “But I did laugh, and I agreed, and it sounded from that crowd like everyone agreed.”

DeSoto County, where Southaven is located, voted overwhelmingly for Mr. Trump, 66 percent to 31 percent for Hillary Clinton. It was a small hamlet until the 1970s, when the suburban population expanded as courts ordered busing in nearby Memphis. An explosion of Memphis-based freight services like FedEx and Southaven’s highly-regarded public schools drew more families, black and white. Now Southaven is the third-largest city in Mississippi. It’s a place of pleasant, if often treeless, subdivisions and large strip malls, with no central downtown. Dale’s, which opened in 1966, stands out for its bright pink exterior and is one place friends can find each other, along with church and school.

Southaven is 71 percent white and 22 percent black, according to the 2010 census. Because most of its housing was developed after the 1970s, neighborhoods are generally integrated, and so are schools. But political loyalties appear starkly divided by race — nearly every white person interviewed in the area backed Mr. Trump, and every black person opposed him.

Candy Jordan, a black office administrator, blames the president for incidents of racial hostility that she had never experienced before his election. She said her daughters’ friend was called a racial epithet by an elderly neighbor who accused the teenager of ruining her flower bed. “There’s a difference between following a person and following what’s right,” she said.

By contrast, Jill Gregory, who is raising three children in the nearby town of Olive Branch and is white, said, “Trump is the only president that’s been elected and he doesn’t have any other interest than serving the American people.”

And so it went at Dale’s, despite the evident affection of the staff for each other. Ms. Green said all the Trump supporters she knew were white, prompting an uneasy rejoinder from Melissa Thomas, the general manager. “What does that mean?” said Ms. Thomas, herself a fervent Trump backer. Last week, she and her daughter, Ms. Gregory, had made sure to be at the rally site by 6:30 a.m., nine hours before it was scheduled to start.

The day after the rally was particularly trying, as Ms. Green listened to the exuberant waves of co-workers and patrons who had attended.

“Just like y’all were tired of me talking about Obama when he was in it, I’m tired about y’all talking about what you did yesterday,” she said she told them. “And I walked out from the whole conversation.”

Later she said she realized she may have been too harsh — after all, seeing a president was part of history. But that didn’t change Ms. Green’s opinion of Mr. Trump, despite the argument of Ms. Thomas, the general manager, that he was improving the economy.

“We got more money in our checks,” Ms. Thomas told her.

Ms. Green was having none of it. “Do I? How do you know? You’re the boss lady. Really? We don’t see a change.”

Ms. Green and Ms. Walls differ on almost everything Mr. Trump has done — the separation of immigrant children from their parents at the border, even his posture toward North Korea.

But the two women cannot afford the rage that has consumed partisans these past weeks. They do not want to torpedo an affection that has deepened over the years. And so they were more modulated in their views when they were together than when they spoke separately.

“We can get into some throwdowns, but five minutes later we’re talking like we’re best friends,” Ms. Walls said.

For all her ardent conservatism, Ms. Walls has her own qualms about Mr. Trump. “I got to wait and see how he finishes this before I decide if I vote for him again,” she said. “He’s a loose cannon in a lot of other ways.”

But she is unyielding in her belief that the confirmation battle was a Democratic ploy to block a conservative justice. That has made her more determined to vote Republican in the midterm elections next month. Ms. Green is equally certain she’ll vote Democratic and that the country would be better off with a different president.

As the two women talked, Ms. Thomas drifted in and out, circling the room asking customers how they liked their heaping plates of food. The manager works seven days at week at Dale’s, which just won the “Spirit of Main Street” award from the chamber of commerce. “I cried,” she said.

Thinking back over the confirmation battle, listening to Ms. Green and Ms. Walls joke and joust, she allowed herself a plaintive question. It was about the country as much as the chatter at Dale’s: “How can we both hear the same thing and get something totally different out of it?”




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