Na­tion di­vided po­lit­i­cally, but Beau­fort street keeps it po­lite

The Beaufort Gazette (Sunday) - - Lowcountry Life - Craven Street neigh­bors may sup­port dif­fer­ent can­di­dates and causes, but they are more in­ter­ested in be­ing good neigh­bors. A mag­a­zine named Craven in 2016 one of the “South’s Most Charm­ing Streets”. BY RYAN COPELAND Spe­cial to The Island Packet

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.

RYAN COPELAND Spe­cial to The Island Packet

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