Winter of our Discontent 

In the words of Kin Hubbard, one of the greatest—if mostly forgotten—American humorists of the late-19th and early 20th centuries, "Don't knock the weather. Nine-tenths of the people couldn't start a conversation if it didn't change once in awhile."

If you've been anywhere in the vicinity of southern Idaho over the past couple of weeks, odds are you've based a sizable number of social interactions on snow plowing (or lack thereof), how or whether you were or weren't able to mush your way to work, historic snowfall in the greater Boise area going back to the 1980s and/or how sore you are from shoveling.

We tend to disregard "weather talk" as shallow, but, as essayist and author Stephen Lapeyrouse wrote in a 2000 edition of the magazine English, it occupies an essential part of human relations as a generally harmless (if boring) form of shared experience. "'Weather talk' is about the weather; but it is also about the state of the common shared humanity—enlivening or dead," he wrote.

In other words, we talk about the weather when we don't want to talk about the deeper issues of life, religion, politics or economics. It's "human sharing when people have little deeper in common, or are afraid to share or disagree," Lapeyrouse wrote.

While the reality of the season brings us together as we dig each other out of snow banks and volunteer to clear our neighbors' driveways, it's also a season of great division. In the run-up to the inauguration of arguably the most polarizing president in U.S. history on Jan. 20, we feature a few stories about unity in this week's edition of Boise Weekly.

On Page 6, BW News Editor George Prentice profiles a pair of Boise high-schoolers who are bringing people together to spur non-partisan action on a slate of social justice issues. On Page 7, freelancer Sami Edge takes a look at how new immigration policies could create literal divisions within families. Finally, on Page 16, Prentice checks in with the new director for Student Diversity and Inclusion at Boise State University about the unifying vision of Dr. Martin Luther King, whose birthday will be marked Monday, Jan. 16, with marches, speeches and a spirit of civic engagement that is always in season.

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