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By Bill Diem

We were in Colorado a month ago, for the wedding of my son Ben to Tara. They took their vows high on a Rocky Mountain, and behind them in the distance the poplars were all yellow-gold or yellow orange, which is the peak of their fall color season.

I haven’t been at a wedding with more joy. The hundred supporters laughed and giggled and cheered, and the ceremony was followed with a grand party in a restaurant in their mountain ski town. We danced and danced.

The people there – friends and family of the couple – were eclectic. Some guys wore suits, some wore shorts and sandals. Women were wearing anything from a German woman’s  lederhosen to long fur coats. We were heavy drinkers and teetotalers in the same room. We were vegetarians and steak people at the same table.

The way we all got along reminded me of my friends and neighbors in Luce and Mackinac counties. The people I know well are wonderful, generous people who care about each other despite some huge differences on subjects like politics, religion, and abortion.

As a nation, the United States is living with really big divisions, like the Trump supporters and the progressive Democrats, the vaccinated and the anti-vaxers, the mask wearers and airplane protestors. Can those people with their strong opinions ever sit together at the same table?

Maybe not in New York or LA. But I think such people could in McMillan or Curtis or Engadine.

Many of my trusted pals fervently support the previous president, and I worked hard with the Detroit representative to boost a huge turnout of Democrats that helped defeat him. Most of the male friends my age are military veterans, and I marched against the Vietnam War.

The tolerance people show each other – and me — may be related to the fact that the U.P. is rural, sparsely populated and poor. The only way to have a good life is to support each other when it comes to accidents, security, and social life. Politics and religion and opinions don’t identify an individual, their life and actions do.

Ben and Tara and her family are all in the restaurant business, and restaurants depend on customers. They want people to feel good when they order and eat and pay their bill. Restaurants are neutral ground, where politics and religion are absent. It’s easy to see how their wedding guests could be so varied, and so together at the same time.

I like to think of the Tahquamenon area in the same way. People can have different opinions and get along anyway because honesty, hard work, good humor, generosity, friendliness are all better ways to identify someone.