SideWalk Ghosts / Interview 264: “Must We Agree?”

“I was a pilot in world war two, I flew transport.” Retired engineer Walter reminisces as he describes one of his war memories. “When the war ended I transported surviving prisoners from the death march. When they were released they were very undernourished and ill. The first thing they did was to eat. And, from eating too much too fast; most of them developed Elephantiasis. I remember to this day the way their legs looked.”

And you can probably guess from the background of the photos, I’ve returned again to the meeting place of Bing’s (Still not pictured) Old Takaka’s.

Bing is a social magnet, and all of his friends are fascinating. For this reason over the next few weeks you will be meeting more of them as I continue to feature members of this mini community of the greatest diversity.

Let’s get back to Walter. Or as  best as we can as he and Bing frequently debate on a range of controversial topics. You know the stuff they say we should never talk about in social groups or at work. Things like politics, religion, the presidential agenda, the nation’s deficit, its causes, and views the pros and cons of America’s military and it’s involvement in global issues.

Walter starts the talks with his advice to the world. “Don’t get in another war,” he instructs.

Bing can’t resist, “May I say something?”

The trigger is pulled and the breeze cooled summit perks into activity.

But here is what I love about these guys. Even though they so don’t agree with each other on many a point. They manage to express their opposed views with the greatest of respect. Over again finding an intersection of agreement in showing the highest of esteem in correcting one another while nurturing their friendship. That in itself is cause for applause.

I just sit, smiling and doing the best I can to keep up with their narrative. However, my silent observations are short-lived. Walter turns to me, “What do you think about our guy in the Whitehouse?”

Now here is the dilemma. For the sake of editorial integrity, the last thing I want to do is manipulate the direction of our interview. But the interview has grown to be a discussion. Yet, even as a discussion, with its free forum of opinions, it would still be wrong for me to plant my own agenda in manipulating the outcome of said interactions. The answer comes to me, “I think he wears a suit… doesn’t he?”

Walter lets out a belly laugh and the documentarian killing ethics bullet has been avoided.

Back to the ungloved mat we proceed. Edgy words are thrown left and right, but in all, the presence of good will is evident. These guys very much respect and appreciate each other, and I feel honored to witness the way differing world views are supposed to be exchanged.

In the sun drenched shade of a strip mall, Walter and Bing have proven to me that the strongest of stances can truly co-exist, and even be openly discussed, in an atmosphere null of guile.

The conversation shifts to the American presence in world issues. An obvious patriot and veteran of the battles for the freedoms we so have, Walter steps hard with his perspective. “Don’t get me wrong, I’m proud to be an American,” But I do not believe that America is exceptional. The British feel that way, the French feel that way, the Italians feel that way.

We’re not exceptional. We are a nation that is trying to do the best we can. And I don’t think, that for any country, to be going around saying they’re better than anyone else is a good way to live.”

Yep… that’s right… This one drives Bing and Walter debate a little more.

In the end they agree on one thought, as delivered by Walter, “Bing plays a pretty good game of tennis.”

I telling you… I love these guys!

I ask Walter about the future. He responds, “One thing is that we will be living on other planets. I know it’s kind of a weird idea. But, we are going to deplete a lot of the resources we have here. The ozone layer problem is going to get worse and worse, and I think we’ll probably run out of biological energy. That’s one thing that I wish Obama would put more emphasis on… renewable energy.”

Walter asks, “Have I given you enough?”

“We’re good, Walter, it’s been great chatting with you.” I respond.

Walter stands… gathers his stuff and leaves us with one last thought, “It’s good to see people thinking beyond today and tomorrow. Keep the project going.”

Thanks Walter! we will!