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Kontos Column: We can learn a lot in backyards and coffee houses

By Dan Kontos

The midterm elections are over. Well, almost. Our part is done anyway. Now what?

A short time ago, I was invited to a friend’s home to enjoy a backyard fire, with smores and a few adult beverages for sure. My gracious wife lost the coin toss for the designated driver role. Thanks, honey.

We were soon joined by another friend who pulled up a lawn chair next to me, and the three men began to chat amongst themselves. The topic of my columns in the Metro Wire came up, and our newly arrived friend told me how much he enjoyed them, which was very much appreciated. He also told me that he did not always agree with me, which is perfectly fine. too.

You see, he is a self-avowed liberal, while I am an unapologetic and proud conservative. This is not an uncommon situation for me.

The conversation strayed from one topic to the next as you would expect, and our host brought up the war in Ukraine. Not especially well versed in the subject, he asked for our opinions on what was happening. Oh, and did we have something to say?

Between our left-leaning friend and myself, we launched into an in-depth discussion on the subject. My liberal sidekick, who is a historian by education, along with my grounding in political science, exchanged interlocking comments which ran the gambit from Putin and Zelenskyy to Czar Nicholas, and from the Donbas (or ‘Donbass,’ if you prefer) to the bridge across the Luhansk River.

We exchanged thoughts on everything from why the Russians are having such difficulties, to why there are two ways to spell and even pronounce the capital, Kyiv or Kiev. We spoke of historical landmarks as well as T-72 tanks.

The gathering eventually moved on into the house, but the conversation went on. My liberal friend and I had a great discussion about this and other things. Frankly, I lost track of time, and I was soon being summoned to the car by my understanding yet perplexed wife. You see, usually, I am the party limiter.

My liberal friend and I never argued that night. It was an occasion for friends and engaging in respectful conversation. That is the norm for us. Wouldn’t it be nice if our politics could be like this?

In August of this year, I had the occasion to run into Representative Katrina Shankland at a conference. She was there to present a bill she championed protecting roadside first responders. This is a topic that is very near and dear to my heart.

While Ms. Shankland and I are essentially political polar opposites, we have always had a friendly and cordial relationship. I have known her for years, and respect her work ethic. She is truly a workhorse for her constituents.

Later in September, she invited me to sit down for a cup of coffee to discuss that law that she authored and to brainstorm possible improvements due to my background in this area. We had a very productive discussion at the recently relocated Mission Coffee House. If you haven’t been there, you should check it out.

Our scheduled one-hour meeting stretched into over two hours. The focus progressed from budget to shared revenue formulas, and so on.

I enjoyed our conversation, and I think I gave her plenty to chew on. We each agreed to continue to work on areas that we can improve on, and I think the world is microscopically better for us having met.

Ms. Shankland will not be surprised at all that I did not vote for her this past election, but our political differences should not be an impediment to improving our community where we can. I will always represent what I believe is correct in society and champion those candidates and causes, for sure. However, there is always some middle ground to work on. Oh, and congratulations Katrina on your reelection.

We can learn a lot in backyards and coffeehouses—if we try.

So, with that, let’s meet in the opinion section to talk about all of it, boldly, honestly, and with healthy respect for each other. Until then, God bless.