Recently, I was face-to-face with someone I thought highly of and we were in the midst of a serious disagreement about political issues. It has happened several times with several people. While I enjoy a good open discussion, I don’t enjoy these encounters.
In these situations, I am usually shocked to find out that someone I admire could possibly believe as they do. They seem to have swallowed the poisonous Kool-Aid of deceitful propaganda. I feel the resultant clash of emotions warring within me, while I respect the person, I find their beliefs, positions, and values on some topics nearly intolerable.
The easiest thing to do is to simply lower my sense of respect for the person or to lessen my association with him. But that would indicate that opinions are more important than relationships.
Too many people I love disagree with me on political issues, and what isn’t a political issue these days? I am not going to push someone away because they have the audacity to disagree with me. Hopefully, they feel the same way.
Honestly, I have been on a sort of mission with this column. This is the sixth one out of the last seven that take a look at the things that divide us and how we can move beyond them. I have written about how enlightening it can be to work side-by-side with someone who is very different than us, how the healing of ethnic divisions happens on the relational level, how a lessening of the influence of the major political parties is essential to our government moving forward, and how we can easily be led astray by a partisan media that fans the flames of our differences.
But now I feel I must write about something more personal. What do you do when you are nose-to-nose with someone you respect, but with whom you also strongly disagree.
Why not have a good discussion? If the conversation is civil and if both parties are open to an honest consideration of other perspectives, go for it. This could be enlightening for both people involved.
On the other hand, if you perceive the conversation will not be an honest give-and-take or may get out of hand and become less than congenial, why go there? If it is just an opportunity for you or the other person to make a point to an unreceptive individual, why would you want to continue? That may just be a manifestation of ego.
If we are secure in our position, we will be open to hearing other perspectives and we won’t need to always defend our perspective or make our point, instead, our emphasis will be on understanding the other person.
If you watch cable news, you would easily come to the conclusion that we are hopelessly divided and roughly half of the people in the country are idiots, because they disagree with an agenda being pushed by the media outlet.
On many national issues our differences are well known, but are we really that divided?A few days ago, I heard an interview with two authors who flew around the nation in a small plane stopping at different cities to get the pulse of what is happening in the community. They took their time and talked to a lot of people from places you hardly ever hear about.
They concluded that generally in local communities people were working together, local government was doing its job, and communities hard-hit by the 2008 financial crisis were bouncing back. It’s an unreported story.
The more local we get, the more relational we allow ourselves to become, the more we find out we are not so different. We want the same things, a decent job, a healthy family, and a good quality of life in our community. We may disagree on how to get there, but on the local level we understand how decisions affect us. We are sitting at the table with our neighbors and we have learned how to stay in the room when differences arise. We learn how to work through them and move on toward solutions.
It is all about respecting other people, even those who disagree with us.
This post was a recent column in the Kenosha News.