I have a couple of friends that I often exchange emails with. We talk about intimate things and mundane things, it is a way to stay connected even though we live miles apart. Sometimes we respond daily and other times months can go by, but we do have a running chain of messages filled with all kinds of insights and reflections.
Side note: If you are interested in starting one of these email chains with me please shoot me an email (email@example.com). It doesn’t matter if we’ve never met in person or used to be close friends, I’d love to reconnect.
I responded to one of these messages this weekend and one of the topics made me think about my perspective on life and how unique it may or may not be. I am certainly not the only former conservative of my generation and I’m not the only person who has family that are still conservatives. My drift away from the religion of my parents is hardly unique, I think most people do that… at least I kind of hope so, I wouldn’t be sure of my own beliefs if I hadn’t tried out a bunch of other ones first.
If there is a part of me that is somewhat (maybe) unique it is an understanding of the Christian perspective that isn’t so, umm, angry. I think we need to try and understand people and their points of view more than we do. Most conservatives aren’t against marriage equality or abortion or whatever because they are evil or hate freedom. Given their premises and values their conclusions generally make sense.
And the same goes for liberals. They aren’t anti-American commies who want to destroy the country and they aren’t insane. Most liberals do not want to expand healthcare, change drug and immigration policy, or are pro-choice because they want to destroy America and kill babies. No, they have a set of principles and view of how the world works and their conclusions reflect that.
The thing is, both conservatives and liberals have the same basic goals. They want to live in a world that is free, safe, and prosperous. It is only the fringe minority that actually want to watch the world burn (so to speak). But I rarely see people giving each other the benefit of the doubt, at least online. Maybe people are better in person, I don’t really know.
Of course, this applies to more than just the political divide. It is so common for Boomers to ridicule Millennials and vice versa (I am certainly guilty of this), but maybe because I am an old Millennials I kind of see both sides of things. Both sides have a set of ideas about how the world works and what a good life is and the other side is different, so they are seen as a threat. But again, both sides really want the same things… stability, prosperity, and safety for themselves and their family.
I’d love to actually engage in deeper discussions with people I disagree with, as long as they are willing to do the same with me. It would be nice to get in past labels and, instead, try and understand a person’s history, philosophy, and perspective that lead them to their conclusions. When we reach that kind of understanding it becomes possible to actually find a middle ground or actually work to change someone’s mind (not that that should be the goal).
I think that is part of why I love the email exchanges I do so much. It gives me an opportunity to ask deeper follow-up questions and take time to respond. We live in a world where people share images and memes that use stereotypes and straw-men to criticize people who are different, and when they are asked about it they ignore it or call you a snowflake. Remember, when you post something critical of someone different than you it tells anyone from that group that may see it that they can’t turn to you for support if things get bad. I have family members who I wouldn’t trust to help me out because they have been so publicly aggressive and critical of my generation and political belief. They have let tribe come before love. This only serves to divide, we’ve all gotten in the habit of fighting each other and punching down to those weaker than us that we have forgotten how to work together for a better world.
So, let’s try and listen once in a while. Send someone (including me) an email, go into detail about not only what you believe or what your label is but WHY you believe that or have adopted that label. Let’s stop being caricatures and one-dimensional, let’s be human.
Feel free to reach out at any of the ways below!
Email address: firstname.lastname@example.org
Questions: pneiger.sarahah.com or www.surveymonkey.com/r/XYRDXHH
Also, I wrote a book about a cross-country bicycle ride I did!
“Wandering Oak: A Rite of Passage”