Staying Friends When Your Politics Don’t Match
By Anne Postic
Maybe Coronavirus will be a thing of the past by the time this is published. Maybe we’ll all be enjoying spring in outdoor cafes, heading to the beach or the lake, and getting together with friends on the porch. I certainly hope so. Whatever happens, we’ve learned how important it is to connect with people, whether online or through video chats or carrier pigeons. Our social circles have grown smaller, and we’re learning how important it is not just to care for ourselves, but for everyone around us. The pandemic is about taking care of everyone, regardless of how they vote. I believe that most people care deeply about other human beings, and that we’re perfectly capable of leaving politics out of it.
I was raised in a politically diverse family, and a lot of us love talking politics, even when we disagree. If it gets too heated, we make silly jokes and move on to a more neutral topic, like whether or not to spread a little mayo on the outside of a grilled cheese sandwich before cooking (you should) and how many boiled peanuts one can safely consume in one sitting (a lot). One thing I’ve learned from my very large family is that no matter how passionately we vote, we feel just as passionately about our shared values.
I have a theory about those values. We all want the best for others, including healthcare, particularly for children, a good education and a safe place to live, and enough to eat. People who identify as more conservative generally believe the individual is in a better place to provide those things. They believe that most employers and providers will do the right thing, and that lower taxes allow those in the position to do more to give more for those in need. People who identify as more liberal generally believe the government is in a better position to ensure people who need help get it. They believe thoughtfully elected officials will make decisions that benefit the greater good, and that those officials will use higher tax revenue to care for people who struggle to care
Given that we’ve never totally met that goal, no matter which party is in control, we don’t really know who’s right, do we? Focusing on the goals and values we all share reminds me that we’re all in this together. That one thought makes it easy to love people, whether or not we behave the same way in the voting booth. Simple, no?
I also believe most people I know are pretty smart. Intelligent, informed people disagree all the time about the best means to achieve the same end. As we live through this difficult time, remember that the blame game gets us nowhere.
How about this? Instead of wasting energy pontificating on what doesn’t work, tell people what you’re doing that is working. We’ve been keeping hand sanitizer by the front and back door, as well as in our cars. All five of us, including our three sons, are taking our shoes off at the door and immediately using the sanitizer, as well as washing our hands once we get farther into the house. Bonus: Taking shoes off at the door is keeping the house cleaner. Share your tips and if someone you know is doing what they think is best, believe them.
Everyone’s in a different situation and we’re all doing our best. Suspending judgement helps us learn and grow closer. If you need a minute, walk away and return to the conversation when you’re ready. Or come back with another topic, like which shows really are the best to binge watch right now (“Law and Order,” “Grace and Frankie,” and, sure, “Tiger King”).
Speaking of a clean house, I’d like to end by sharing a funny thing I saw on Facebook. “Our house cleaner is working from home now. She’ll call and tell us what to do.” I laughed out loud. It’s about teamwork, y’all. Please take care of yourself, your neighbors, and anyone else you can reach.