One of the best labor days in memory. For one, I didn't spend the day laborin', as I did last year. Nor did I go to the labor fest, where those capitalist pigs charge for beer and brats. Instead, in the true spirit of worker solidarity, I hosted a barbecue for some of my comrades in our apartment building's (an old manor house on Gorham St.) communal backyard. The brats, corn on the cob, grilled veggie salad and some union made High Life to wash it down (three beers per brat usually does the trick) would have made Marx proud.
However, what I most appreciated about the BBQ was the opportunity to actually meet neighbors, something that is definitely not a given in downtown Madison. It is rather common for students and other young people to go a year without once speaking to those with whom they share walls. In my experience, often you introduce yourself, hang out once or twice and then never talk again. Sometimes that's for better, but I think overall its for worse.
Increasingly, people in our society are able to live their lives in specialized cliques. In addition to bars, neighborhoods and stores that cater to certain sub-cultures or scenes, the onslaught of technological changes allow us to further segregate ourselves from the general populace by gaining access to media outlets that fit our political views and dating websites that "match" us with people who share our interests, worldview etc. Although people tend to believe that they should be as tolerant as possible, they rarely have to exercise this belief because they are not forced to deal with many different types of people. I very rarely have to force myself to tolerate blaring country music, for instance.
Many people don't even live in "neighborhoods" anymore. Do people living in McMansions in the nation's exurbs have block parties or belong to bowling leagues? I wouldn't know from experience, but from what I've read, megachurches do best in such areas because they tend to lack other community institutions to which people seeking a sense of belonging and fellowship can gravitate.
Cultural and economic isolation is a boon for demagogues in religion and politics. Rush Limbaugh may have always had a choir to preach to, but he can get them to hate their fellow liberal Americans even more if they never are forced to know, barbecue with and like the liberals who live down the street from them.
Interacting with neighbors on a regular basis is a great way to see the good in people you might not otherwise choose as friends. This is an especially relevant experience for me, as I search for new friends to replace my many college buddies who have moved away in the past year.
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