This year is volatile in many ways. Things can get ugly when we disagree about things, especially politics. I am not writing to promote one candidate over another, or one policy over another. I am writing to consider how to maintain friendships while having the discussions we are bound to have in an election year. I write from experience because I recently had to disagree – gently – with a good friend. My personal preferences were not important, nor was my view on the future of our country. The important thing was the future a a precious friendship.
A calmer approach also opens my mind and allows me to learn. Let’s say I disagree profoundly with someone, even someone I barely know. Now it’s not about preserving a relationship. I could tend to get emotional in such a discussion. I’ve discovered this accomplishes nothing. Political discussions can never be ‘won’. Looking back, I see it’s all about ego: “Can’t you see I am right?” Another good friend corrected me on this a few years ago, and while the criticism stung, I appreciate it now.
So, how are we to talk to each other in a hotly contested election year? Consider one idea, see if you think it has merit: Put your curiosity in the drivers seat. Ask the person, “Why do you think this candidate (or policy) would be the best choice? Ask other questions.
Here is where it gets interesting, because you have just initiated a discussion. The person may want to know what you think. But you are prepared, not just because you have a position, but because you are calm enough to have heard what the person just said. I suggest that you refrain from arguing, even if you do have a host of facts to support your view. Instead you might phrase your ideas in words less threatening to your listener, for example, “My understanding is…” Why do this? It’s about keeping lines of communication open, which I think is more important than the illusion of winning. The benefits of this are great. We begin to learn things. I may learn things of value without having to change my mind totally. I think all this is helpful in an election year!
After Steve died, I mentioned to his brother that I knew his dad would have an empty place in his life, too. And in his weeks, because he used to invite Steve and myself over for lunch fairly often.
Jerry suggested I visit his dad, so I did. I found the visits a real comfort to me, too. The conversation ranged from gun control policy to the origin of American regional dialects and family connections. I got to see quite a few family photos, including one of Steve smiling broadly at a family reunion.
Sometimes I would bring Gerald the results of my attempts at sugar-free baking, and we would discuss methods, since Gerald is already accomplished at this. When I left for home, he would often give me a little token of friendship. My favorite is a little booklet from Salesian Missions entitled “Never Alone”. Inside is a wealth of poetry affirming God’s love and presence. I will always treasure this – it lifts my spirits. ~
Upon rereading my post of a couple days ago, I think I must apologize for what sounds like the callous assertion that people who have lost their jobs must suffer for the good of all. That’s how it hit me upon reading it today. What a terrible suggestion! What I meant to emphasize is that we should become more generous in order to help our neighbors and promote the community I spoke of.
I recently read of a restaurateur in Washington DC who serves everyone who comes in the door regardless of their ability to pay. He emigrated from Pakistan some years ago, worked very hard and saved money in order to do God’s work, which he had not yet identified. When a friend wanted to sell his restaurant, it was clear what he should do – feed the hungry. He has paying customers, of course, but feeding everyone is at the center of his mission. See this story in the March 2020 issue of Guideposts magazine.
The challenges of living today are enormous. So much is required of us, especially in the area of communication. We are bombarded with information, so we’re constantly weeding and sorting: Truth from lies, value from garbage, friends from foes, threats from opportunities, hope from fear. These challenges increased exponentially with the advent of the internet. We have an explosion of information and a whole herd of new options, which means thousands more decisions every week or oftener. These are days that test our mettle.
And now we have a global pandemic. This can make us fearful and a bit more selfish and protective. Yet, I read recently about a business owner who voluntarily closed his bar for the second time, to help control the spread of COVID19. He considers it a community service and a necessary precaution.
My heart aches for those who have lost their jobs. I’ve been in that situation too, over the years, and I remember the feeling of desperation. Still, I pray that we will all learn to accept some sacrifices for the sake of our communities. I believe that Community, like Faith, is at the heart of the positives that will help us work together and survive.
If you know of a story of community effort you would like to share, I invite you to add your comments! And thanks.