Wine in an Age of Mobs and Riots
Wine has most often in history been used as a tool for mood alteration. The alcohol in wine provides a path to calming nerves, to lighten the mood, to come down from a heightened state of intensity. Today, it’s fair to say, Americans find themselves in a heightened state of intensity and insecurity, and for good reason.
It’s not every year you find your world dissolved by an invisible killer, your world-view challenged by growing hordes of ideologically strident partisans, and your seat of government overtaken by delusional mobs made up of your neighbors. If there was ever a time to self medicate with wine, now would it. And you wouldn’t get much pushback from the Concern Brigade.
I don’t want to suggest that in light of what we are all going through there is justification for a retreat to stupor, with wine used to get us there. Instead, I want to suggest that wine can be the animated prop that allows us to do two things that might be very helpful at this moment:
1. Wine can be the connective tissue that brings together two people or two groups that hold ideological differences and might otherwise be willing to draw rhetorical swords.
2. Wine, with all its aesthetic and historical beauty, can be a needed retreat from the specter of dissolution that comes with feelings of isolation or disintegration brought on by the continued spread of a virus, both political and biological.
I’ve found that when I engage in conversation with those who disagree with me over the most inciting political topics, I can often calm the conversation and head off confrontation by employing the rhetorical tactic of seeking common ground. I do this by redirecting the conversation in this way: “Can we at least agree that….” and then I propose the most uncontroversial of statements. For those of us in the community of wine, our favorite beverage can serve as that common ground.
Right now, when there is more danger of frustration and anger over mobs, over culture, over ideologies and over the future bubbling into violence, wine and its ability to connect us might be a proper focus. The pleasure that wine gives and the intellectual satisfaction wine provides might be a path toward turning the volume down. It might be the opportunity to shared insights with someone who at once appears your ideological enemy. Or it might simply be a matter of turning off the TV and the computer and pulling out a wine to sit with calmly in a dimly lit, comfortable room. It may be just a matter of letting two or three glasses of wine do its trick.
It’s very difficult for me to understand or express the level of division I see and experience in America today. I don’t know if there is a great deal more room for that division to increase. I don’t know if the political and cultural division has reached the point that a disaster is all that looms. But I believe I am right when I conclude that we are at a level of division that imposes upon many, including myself, a tendency to focus and concentrate our thoughts for an unhealthy amount of time on the threats we face. And this leads me to believe that retreating to beauty alone or with others can’t be the worst response to the uncertainty.
Wine is beautiful. Wine connects. Wine, properly understood, opens our minds to possibilities beyond the quotidian and base. Wine might be a salve right now that allows us if only for a short time, to treat others more gingerly and treat ourselves to something other than dismay and anger. My suggestion is that we take wine up on its offer.