I had noticed the house every day as I drove home. In my mostly Democratic suburb of New York City, it was hard to miss, with its Trump lawn signs, its Trump flag, the Trump bumper sticker on the pickup in the driveway and, for a while before Halloween, the noose hanging from a tree out front.
But this time, a few days after Election Day, I didn’t just drive past. As a journalist, I knew my next months and years would be spent exploring these Divided States of America — the communities, neighborhoods and families who share a nation but not a worldview. How do you heal a country whose citizens can’t find a way to hear each other?
I decided to start by meeting my neighbor.
Gigi Fresiello seemed as surprised to see me on her front stoop as I was to be there. When I explained my mission — writing about split neighborhoods, starting with my own — she called up to her husband, Chris, who, she said, “is the political one.” He was less surprised that I’d stopped by. “I’m happy to talk politics with anyone all day,” he said.
He was taken aback, however, when I told him my visit was motivated in part by a discussion I’d had with another neighbor about the youngsters on the block who were afraid to stand at the bus stop, which is in front of the Fresiellos’ house.
“That makes me mad,” he said. “It also makes me question the kids’ parents and what they are telling their children. Why would they be afraid of me? I’m the one who’s outnumbered here.” Politically, he is. Our town voted 65 percent for Clinton and 32 percent for Trump. But in other ways he is representative of the neighborhood — a white (67 percent), Catholic (46 percent) man (49 percent) of Italian descent (16 percent).