How cars can bring us togetherS

Because every conversation, on any topic, turns political these days it seems most have isolated themselves from differing opinions to just avoid the trouble. That creates nothing more than an endless navel-gazing echo chamber. But a chance encounter with a Ranchero-ized metallic green Lincoln Continental was a reminder there's a place pluralism still reigns.

It's gotten to where you can't even turn on Monday Night Football without getting into a heated political discussion. Obama's a Nazi. Rick Perry's a Fascist. Nancy Pelosi's the devil. Eric Cantor's a Terminator robot sent from the future to destroy humanity.

What's the point of talking to anyone else? They're always wrong. No matter what they believe. Any bit of kindness or interaction is just an invitation to hear from someone about how they're "pretty sure the comptroller of the local community college system is a Socialist" or "There's a car that runs on hemp, but Exxon won't let anyone see it."

Yet, when I saw the older gentleman in a plaid shirt and belt buckle pull up to the gas station in this remarkable vehicle I didn't pause to wonder whether his vague vanity license plate indicated he was a conservative or just a contractor. I just walked right up to him and introduced myself and started asking him about the truck.

This is the first time I've ever seen one of the rare Rancheroized Lincoln Continentals and I was determined to get the story. The "Farm and Ranch" special was, according to the gentleman driving it, #7 of just 12 built and purchased new from the Lincoln dealer by another family.

He was using it to tow a small tractor to the shop.

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It was gorgeous, with the original Cartier clock and 8-track inside. The roof was covered in a fading swath of vinyl that surrounded an elongated version of Lincoln's famous porthole and reached around the bed to the tailgate.

The owner beamed as he spoke of the car-truck, opening the hood to show me the 365-hp 460 Ford V8. He even offered to send me photos of the car if I was interested. I was (check out the gallery).

I shook his hand, admired his stellar belt-buckle, and thanked him for his kindness.

Did it matter that he was from the country and I was from the city? That we were from different generations? That he might be a populist liberal and I might be a Christian conservative? Or vice-versa? Nope.

And it didn't matter to the middle-aged man who walked up to him, cellphone in hand, hoping to get some information on the car as I turned to my own.

Ultimately, there's some level where politics and cars are inextricably linked. It's unavoidable. But it's at the macro level and it should stay there. There are some who'd like to bring it to the micro level and exploit our disagreements for cash, but this is foolhardy. Car culture is the answer to some of our problems, not the problem itself.

Robert Putnam posited that a social disconnect exists in modern society and it's having an adverse impact on democracy in his book Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community.

I don't think Putnam's a car guy. I don't think he goes to a Cars & Coffee and sees people of disparate ages, religions, socio-economic backgrounds, and political views hanging out. Talking about cars. Even talking about politics (mostly car-related politics).

We may be bowling alone, but we're driving together.