EDITORIAL: Reject division, seek connection in the new year

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category icon Editorials, Opinion

New Year’s customs vary widely around the world, but all seem designed to secure the same types of things — luck, love, happiness and good fortune — in the new year.

Whether it’s cutting an apple in half and looking at the core to predict the year ahead (Czech Republic); eating 12 grapes as the 12 chimes ring out at midnight on New Year’s Eve to bring happiness in the new year (Spain); eating black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day to bring prosperity (Southern United States); or wearing pink underwear on New Year’s Eve to attract love (Argentina), New Year’s customs speak to our collective wishes for love, stability and happiness.

We could all stand to remember these wishes in 2020, especially during the run-up to the 2020 presidential election when we’re sure to hear our president and his supporters verbally attacking his opponents, encouraging hatred, spreading lies on social media and basically showing the exact opposite of the values most people wish to see in the new year.

After all, when was the last time you heard someone desperately hoping on New Year’s Eve for more vitriol, more ill will or more seething animosity in the upcoming year?

Our wish for this new year is that we will all try to seek out the things that connect us instead of focusing on what divides us.

If you listen to National Public Radio, you may have heard a recent show reflecting on the luminaries we’ve lost over the past few years, including Anthony Bourdain, the author of “Kitchen Confidential” and star of the award-winning travel show, “Parts Unknown,” who died at the age of 61 in June 2018.

NPR ran a 2016 “Fresh Air” interview in which Bourdain discusses how he was able to pull such amazing stories out of the people he met around the world filming “Parts Unknown.”

Bourdain said he approached a conversation as a storyteller instead of as a journalist.

“I mean, journalists drop into a situation, ask a question. People sort of tighten up, whereas if you sit down with people and just say, ‘Hey, what makes you happy? What’s your life like? What do you like to eat?’ More often than not, they will tell you extraordinary things, many of which have nothing to do with food.”

As we enter 2020 and prepare for a presidential election taking place in a deeply divided country, let’s remember Bourdain’s trick for connecting with other people and get back to having real, in-person conversations with people — even people who seem like our polar opposites. Ask them, “What’s your life like? What makes you happy?” and then really listen. Chances are, there are going to be more things that connect you than divide you.

As Bourdain also once said: “I don’t have to agree with you to like you or respect you.”

As we reflect on 2019 and look forward to more love, more happiness and more stability in 2020, perhaps we also should make a resolution to question the motives of those who seem fixated on promoting the things that divide us and those who encourage more hatred, more pettiness and more instability in the new year.