I had a conversation with a person the other day in regards to the right vs left split in this country, and she started off very negative. We talked a bit, her disparaging the Democrats and Liberals as one big lump of useless humanity for a bit before I let her in on the secret. I’m quite liberal in my views. She would consider me one of “them.” Once she realized that her tone changed a bit, at first, to one of pity, thinking I was indoctrinated. We talked a bit more. As we each pointed out hypocrisies rampant on the right and the left her tone changed ever more towards conciliatory. When we parted company her final thoughts were that people on the left and people on the right, Democrats and Republicans alike, are averse to compromise and it’s blown the whole thing up.
A person nearby told me, after she left, that I was really good at debate.
I shied from that comment. The truth is I’m really good at seeing both sides. Of understanding points of view. I’ve been a hard-line conservative and an unabashed libertarian. Those steps were taken along the way of my evolution. I don’t call myself a Liberal – I avoid casting and accepting labels – and I’m not a registered member of any party. What I do have is a really open mind. I’m eager to learn. My willingness to learn with an open mind is how I grew from a Christian in my teens to an agnostic as an adult. From a jingoistic conservative in my twenties to a global-thinking progressive in my 40s. I’m 50 now, and I am still learning.
But that doesn’t mean that I disdain those who have found comfort in their worldviews. Change is never easy; growth is hard and becomes ever harder as we grow older. But whether liberal or conservative in preference, no person should buy into the rhetoric being spewed by purveyors of hate. All liberals do not want to kill babies. All conservatives are not Nazis. We all know that. I know that we all know that because I talk to people. Not at them, with them. And once we break through the talking points, the gut reactions, I always find out that people more or less like other people and respect them, even if they vehemently disagree with their worldviews.
I think the woman I spoke to and I were both better off at the end of our conversation. Because we talked. Because we listened. We don’t have to be divided by our personal philosophies and we should never want to live under the tyranny of one extreme or the other. We should meet in the middle, whenever we can. Find common ground.
There is world aplenty for all of us.
On this day, which is the 27th of May in the year 2019 – Memorial Day in America – we serve best those who served us by remembering that they died not for the ideals of the left or the ideals of the right but for the ideals of universal liberty and human equality. For the freedoms we are guaranteed. The freedom of each of us to practice whatever religion we believe. To speak our minds, assemble, and express ourselves peaceably. To disagree with our government when we believe it has done wrong. To pursue happiness in the manner we see fit.
Those are ideas worth commemorating, worth fighting and dying for. Your ideals, and the ideals of your presumed political adversary, as well. A nation cannot be great without compromise. Humanity cannot endure or prosper without compassion. So listen. Listen and empathize. It’s amazing what we learn when we do.