Dale and I met in a parking lot, he hobbling back from Physical Therapy after his wife, who strode ahead of him, me hurrying to my car so as not to run out of money at the meter. But there he was with clear eyes and a slight smile — I couldn't resist asking how he was feeling about the future of America.
"I'm 80," he started. It was a refrain he came back to multiple times throughout our 120 second conversation, as though it were a selling point or an excuse, I was never sure which (and I'm not sure he was, either).
"I feel like America is clashing on their opinions. It seems like before, people were okay if you had your opinion and I had my opinion. No one was trying to force their opinions on each other. Now, in the age of political correctness, it's become people expecting that you're going to think the way I'm going to think."
I almost interrupted him, to ask about that whole PC thing. It was the first time I'd finally understood why some people in the world eschew the political correctness/micro-aggression. Because in their minds, those things divide us.
"If we all had our separate opinions, that would be better," he continued. "I feel optimistic about America. It's good there will be more jobs here, and having more jobs and focusing on us will lift up the psyche.
I know I'm older. And I know younger people will learn. God Bless you."
Dale has stuck out to me since we chatted. I keep coming back to that idea, that the age of political correctness isn't good for us as a country. While I don't agree with him there, I do hear an echo of something I struggle with: how do we accept everyone without tolerating intolerance?
I want very much to accept each person as they are, with my heart wide open, and not try to change them. But I also don't want to promote, or suggest, that it's okay to be racist, sexist, or lacking consideration for our fellow humans of any stripes.
The easy answer is to sweep it under the rug, or to not try, or to try and change everyone. The harder answer is something I've yet to define.