Nation divided politically, but Beaufort street keeps it polite
The trees that line the sidewalk and houses on Craven Street in Beaufort have not yet begun to shed their leaves in earnest.
The cars parked on the street show no signs of winterizing and the boats in the driveways look well-used.
Despite the surprising cool of an afternoon, you’d never even know it’s fall here except for the flags and yard signs that tell us that despite what the weather is or isn’t doing, it’s definitely political season.
The street named by Southern Living Magazine in 2016 as one of the “South’s Most Charming Streets” is also currently one of its most politically charged.
Blue flags that advocate the re-election of the 45th presi
dent lie across the rails on a couple of front porches. From those same front porches, however, you can look out at the yard signs in front of neighboring houses that clearly state their owner’s preference for a change at the federal level.
Each house, it seems, indicates a desire to be different from the house next to it. Here, in one of the oldest established neighborhoods in Beaufort, this is certainly no cookie-cutter development.
What it is, perhaps, is a microcosm of the nation right now — differing views expressed boldly within literal feet of each other.
And yet, there’s still a space for everyone at the block party.
“We don’t talk politics in the neighborhood, except jokingly,” said Betty Heilig, who, with her husband, Paul, has not only a Trump flag out front but also a Trump welcome mat at their front of the door.
The Heiligs have been in Beaufort for four years and have observed that niceties extend into the entire town.
“People in Beaufort don’t talk about politics openly,” she said.
Across the street, Heilig’s neighbor Astrid Dick found much the same even in a time of national unrest. In July, she displayed a Black Lives Matter flag from her front porch. It joined the Biden sign already on her lawn.
“I think the flag articulates the feeling that people have here, and people have mostly love,” said Dick.
She, too, found that Beaufort has a “unique hospitality” and said that many people in the neighborhood expressed thankfulness for the flag and its message.
“It’s a moment charged with emotion and we all do feel what’s happening,” said Dick.
The positive messages she’s received from people driving by or riding in carriages are mirrored by the compliments Heilig has received on her Trump shoes and flag. Many tourists and locals find the street accessible and picturesque, so the foot traffic naturally draws people from all persuasions willing to appreciate their own preferred candidate’s display.
On Craven Street, counterbalance, it seems, is what preserves the congenial atmosphere.
And of course, for every national sign on the street, there are state and local races that receive their own moments of morning sun.
City Councilman and mayoral candidate Stephen Murray lives on the street and accepts that his opponent, fellow Beaufort native Mike Sutton, also has signs on the street. Though the green Murray signs are plentiful along the sidewalks, the Sutton button will also be pushed.
“It’s quite the diverse street, but it shows the blessings of a democracy,” said Murray. “We’ve each served with relative distinction and we’re both Beaufort boys.”
It’s obvious his tone is genuine, as is that of neighbors wishing him well despite voting for his opponent. In fact, there seemed almost a conciliatory tone from Craven residents that someone in politics even has to lose. They may think it, but they’re certainly not saying it aloud.
That’s the Beaufort way, though, and maybe the wind that momentarily sets the political flags waving and yard signs swaying on Craven Street will sweep across the county, state and nation.
If it did, simple civility could be the really big winner this fall.