Gracy in the NYT:
I live in one of those old towns that was not built for cars. Its Main Street is narrow, hedged in with historic stone houses and walls. As commuter traffic has intensified over the past several years, it’s become increasingly dangerous to walk along Main Street.
The mayor of my tiny Virginia town has worked incessantly to fix this, by fostering walkability and traffic-calming measures since he ran for town council in the 1990s. I’m determined to help him: I want to walk with my daughter to the playground or the farmer’s market without fearing for her safety.
Our mayor is liberal. He drives around town with an Obama ’08 bumper sticker on his car. I am a conservative, pro-life Christian; in 2016, I voted for Evan McMullin for president. But our partisan political differences mean nothing when it comes to caring for this town and making it better. Here at the local level, our interests intertwine: They are practical, achievable, even apolitical.
One of the key points here is that when the primary medium in which we encounter people is ephemeral, disagreements have a way of asserting themselves loudly and causing us to dig in and ostracize one another. But when the space in which encounter another person is a shared place, it forces us to work toward agreement and compromise because, for better or worse, we are stuck together and, therefore, we may as well make the best of it. It’s a pragmatic move, in other words, but a pragmatism oriented toward the health of local places, which is to say a principled pragmatism oriented toward something with an anchor in reality.