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A handwritten sign went on the wall behind the counter at Ms. Anne Thrope’s Coffee Club: “No demonizing or disparaging comments about anyone. Do not vilify. Talk about ideas, problems, and solutions. Nonviolently. Thank you for understanding.” The words were inked in a dark blue against white background with the exception of a red “Nonviolently.”

“Well, that’s an odd sign,” said Jackson McUsquy. “It’s a political year. Those bums on the other side—well, you know what I think. They’re always tearing down my people.”

“Exactly my point,” said Ms. Anne. “And you’re always tearing them down. What would happen if people who disagreed began to talk to each other about our problems?”

“You know things aren’t right in this country. People want to be something else,” said McUsquy. “The only way to change things is to make people change.”

“And what if your side loses and they make you change?

“My side can’t lose—unless the election is rigged.”

“I hear that,” said Sonny Halstead. “It don’t matter what we want. The corporations rig everything to come out their way.”

“Damn straight,” said McUsquy. “Look at what AnKarA Corporation did to the land and all the people and then they got Congress to declare them innocent.”

“See already you’re avoiding the problems and blaming someone not in the conversation. Try to talk about situations and stop spreading personal attacks and rumors. People kid me about my name, but I’m not a hater of people. I love people and want everyone to do well. I don’t see it happening in our nation these days.”

“Yeah, take that football player who didn’t salute the flag,” said Sonny Halstead. “He doesn’t deserve the money. Ask any vet.”

“Hang loose, Sonny,” said Jackson McUsquy. “I’m a veteran. I don’t like what he did, but this is America and he has a right to express himself. Protest all he wants. Has nothing to do with his job. That’s the nature of a free country and our Constitution. And besides all that, lots of people don’t stand when the National Anthem is sung. I don’t stand when I hear it played on television. Maybe I’m wrong, but I don’t do it then.”

“Keep talking,” said Ms. Anne, “and pay attention to the sign. Here’s a coffee on me for the conversation.”

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