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Know the West

Sharing food … and history


Thank you for Patricia Limerick’s essay on the complex sociology of the current conflict over oil and gas development (“Fractured,” HCN, 2/22/16). Learning from the past has not been one of the West’s strengths. Many Westerners seem as passionately devoted to ignoring or denying history as Ms. Limerick is to bringing history to bear on our current conflicts and challenges.

While Limerick’s quest to get Westerners to pay attention to history may not prove achievable, her other suggestion about the benefits of those on opposite sides sharing food has great promise. The benefits are not limited to providing time for listening as a result of the necessity of chewing. It is really more basic than that. Going back to the early days of our species, the experience of sharing food calls up our deep desire for human connection. We are subconsciously reminded of our common humanity, and that changes how we treat each other, including our willingness to respectfully listen to the other’s perspective.

Sharing food will not prevent or settle conflicts. But if practiced consistently, it will make those conflicts less bitter. And maybe that will translate into a desire to learn each others’ stories ... and our region’s history.

Felice Pace
Klamath, California