Kontos column: We can learn a lot in backyards and cafes


By Dan Kontos

The midterm elections are over. Well, almost. Our part is done anyway. Now what?

Not long ago I was invited over to a friend’s house to enjoy a backyard fire, complete with smores and a few adult drinks for sure. My gracious wife lost the draw for the role of designated driver. Thank you darling.

We were soon joined by another friend who pulled up a lawn chair next to me, and the three men began chatting among themselves. The subject of my columns in the subway wire came, and our newly arrived friend told me how much he enjoyed them, which was much appreciated. He also told me that he doesn’t always agree with me, which is perfectly fine. too.

You see, he is a self-proclaimed liberal, while I am a shameless and proud conservative. This is not an uncommon situation for me.

The conversation strayed from topic to topic as expected, and our host brought up the war in Ukraine. Not particularly versed in the subject, he asked our opinion on what was going on. Oh, and did we have something to say?

Between our friend on the left and myself, we engaged in an in-depth discussion on the subject. My liberal sidekick, who is a historian by training, with my background in political science, traded intertwined comments that ran the bet from Putin and Zelenskyy to Tsar Nicholas, and from Donbass (or “Donbass”, if you prefer) to bridge on the Lugansk River.

We exchanged thoughts on everything from why Russians have such a hard time, to why there are two ways to spell and even pronounce the capital, Kyiv or Kyiv. We talked about historical monuments as well as T-72 tanks.

The gathering eventually moved to the house, but the conversation continued. My Liberal friend and I had a great discussion about this and other topics. Frankly, I lost track of time and was soon summoned to the car by my understanding but puzzled wife. You see, usually, I’m the party limiter.

My Liberal friend and I never argued that night. It was an opportunity for friends and to engage in respectful conversation. This is the norm for us. Wouldn’t it be nice if our politics could be like that?

In August of this year, I had the opportunity to meet Representative Katrina Shankland at a conference. She was there to introduce a bill she championed to protect roadside first responders. This is a subject that is very close to my heart.

Although Mrs. Shankland and I are essentially political opposites, we have always had a friendly and cordial relationship. I have known her for years and respect her work ethic. She is truly a workhorse for her constituents.

Later in September, she invited me over for a cup of coffee to discuss this law she drafted and to think about possible improvements based on my experience in this area. We had a very productive discussion at the recently moved Mission Coffee House. If you haven’t been there, you should check it out.

Our scheduled one-hour meeting stretched out to over two hours. The focus shifted from budget to revenue sharing formulas and so on.

I enjoyed our conversation, and I think I gave him plenty to chew on. We each agreed to keep working on areas where we can improve, and I think the world is microscopically better off after we meet.

Ms. Shankland won’t be at all surprised that I didn’t vote for her in the last election, but our political differences shouldn’t be a barrier to improving our community where we can. I will always represent what I believe is right in society and I will defend these candidates and these causes, that’s for sure. However, there is always a middle ground to work on. Oh, and congratulations Katrina on your re-election.

We can learn a lot in backyards and cafes, if we try.

So, with that, let’s meet in the opinion section to talk about it all, boldly, honestly, and with healthy respect for one another. Until then, God bless you.


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