Looking for diversity in all the wrong places

I often hear parents bemoan that there is not much diversity at Lake Harriet Community School these days. When we talk about diversity, we are usually talking about diversity of race, which we all know, is lacking in our corner of Southwest Minneapolis. But I sometimes forget that there are other, perhaps more challenging, forms of diversity. I'm talking about diversity of thought and, dare I say, political ideology.

Through our kids, my husband and I recently met our couple-clone. They also live in Southwest Minneapolis, and our two boys are exactly the same ages. We see eye-to-eye on politics, the arts, books, food -- you name it -- we agree. One set of each of our parents lives in Florida and we even went to the same Bill Clinton rally 11 years ago. When we get together, we are comforted by our shared opposition to environmental rollbacks, the war and educational funding cuts. I'd guess we see eye-to-eye on 99 percent of the day's issues (that 1 percent constitutes a movie that they liked and we did not). Although our similarities with this couple are perhaps extreme, I find that what I love about this part of town is that most people I encounter hold similarly progressive views. I feel fairly secure that I will not offend anyone at the bus stop when I pass out flyers for the latest handgun-control rally.

Not to say that I have not noticed "Liberate Iraq" signs sprinkled thoughout the neighborhood. But when I talk to neighbors with different political views, they tend to be, in my mind, of the reasonable Minnesota Republican party of yore, not the people who voted in the politicians who brought us more guns, 24-hour-waiting-periods, and slashed funding to human services (the ones whom, in this year of post-Wellstone mourning, I'm finding myself feeling so angry with). But when I let myself imagine that all expand-the-highways-types are bad, I'm slipping into stereotyping in a way that I would never allow myself toward someone of a different race.

Maybe this is why God gave me Deirdre. Deirdre and I met at the school bus stop when we were 12. We became close friends and have remained that way to this day. I fully enjoy her company, and I adore her family. She's funny, smart, sophisticated and kind. She is also a devoted member of the Right-wing Christian Coalition. One of the great mysteries in my life is how two such politically opposite people can so enjoy one another's company.

I know she suspects that I'm one of those unpatriotic, take-away-our-right-to-protect-our-families, no-prayer-in-schools, supporter-of-indecent-artistic-expression, tree-hugging-bleeding-heart-liberals. The one time we did stumble into a political conversation, I mentioned my indignation about the American gun culture. She looked at me slightly surprised and said sweetly, "God commanded us to all have guns to protect ourselves from the forces of the devil."

All right then. I thought about countering that perhaps the gun itself is the force of the devil but decided that I'd rather hear about her kids.

In our current adult lives, Deirdre and I would never meet. I'm ensconced in my Left-leaning South Minneapolis life and she lives in Maple Grove and goes to morning prayer meetings with her state legislator. If we did meet, I think our mutually strong views about the issues of the day would make cultivating a friendship quite challenging. Yet at least 90 percent of the way we conduct our lives is very similar. So when I find myself on my high horse, ranting at the morning newspaper about those suburban Republicans who are "ruining" our state, I have to remind myself that my lovely friend Deirdre might not be the only decent one among them. There is, after all, more than one way to celebrate diversity in this world.

Jocelyn Hale, a lifelong Minneapolitan, lives with her family in the Fulton neighborhood.