Moderator Gary Chesley, at podium, begins the discussion with the impact of female voters on the upcoming election. SC Photo by Jan Holly
Moderator Gary Chesley, at podium, begins the discussion with the impact of female voters on the upcoming election. SC Photo by Jan Holly

The first talking point at Current Events, Nov. 5 at the Phillips Gallery, was for women only. Moderator Gary Chesley reported to the group that “in this election cycle, women will determine winners and losers—and more women are running for office this year than in the history of the country. As a woman,” he asked, “will you be more likely to vote for a woman or a man?”

Female attendees presented a range of views on the topic, beginning with one firm pronouncement to vote for “whomever I think is better qualified.” Standing in solidarity with female candidates, participant Ginny Robinson declared that “all things being equal, I would choose the woman—always.”

Shirley Stewart echoed Robinson’s assertion. “The first consideration is qualifications,” she said, “but if they were equally qualified, I would vote for the woman.”

Jane Picker’s blunt response went one step further. “It’s hard to imagine that [the two genders] could be equal,” she said. “The woman would usually be superior, and I would certainly support her.”

Taking the discussion in a much more somber direction, Chesley made a provocative statement on gun violence. “The eleven people who died in last week’s synagogue shooting would have laughed at the need for armed guards at their doors—and then they were attacked,” he said. “Do we need an armed guard at Current Events?”

A Jewish attendee responded with the news that, on Saturday at Bat Yam Temple services, “a policeman was at the door. The City sent him. I was very surprised by this,” he said.

Dan Perkins lamented the “escalating violence over political issues. Going forward after Tuesday’s election could be a very different time in our country,” he said.

Another attendee pointed to the grim statistic that “157 mass shootings occurred in America last year—all done by white males. We should be scared about this.”

Posing a philosophical question, Chesley solicited separate responses from the Republicans and Democrats in the room. “What do you believe are the principles of your party today?” he asked.

Speaking first, a Republican described G.O.P. principles succinctly: “God, country, the American flag, freedom, small government and independence.”

Another Republican stressed the principle of nationalism, “to put America first. I don’t

believe in white nationalism, but I don’t think Trump does either,” he said. “Trump is President of all the people, whether white, black or Hispanic. We should be No. 1 and not bow to anybody else,” he added.

On the Democratic side, Jack Bailey called up “the ideas of the Renaissance and the Enlightenment—science, inquiry, openness to new ideas.”

Ann Yarnall added to Bailey’s statement her belief that “government can and must play a constructive role in solving our country’s—and states’—problems.” Concurring, Herb Rubin noted the importance of governmental support “for education, welfare, health, and the core value of the individual, no matter who that individual is.”

On the important question of what might unite Americans in these polarizing times, Robinson, said, simply, “the Golden Rule.” Rubin’s response was “civilization and a democratic society.”

Sydney Picker cited the rule of law as America’s foremost unifying principle. “By that I mean respect for a process that we follow in an orderly way—not disorderly. At the bottom line, [we have] respect for the various processes—whether legislative or judicial—for addressing issues,” he said. “As long as that continues to exist, we will remain unified as a country.”

Current Events meets 10 a.m. to noon, Mondays in BIG ARTS’s Phillips Gallery. Jan Smith moderates the next session, on Nov. 12. Islanders are invited to join the discussion. Admission is $3.