As a young adult, I looked at them and wondered how they could be married, with such different philosophies. That wonder seems quaint today, in our current political climate, where Democrats call Republicans “deplorables” and Republicans call Democrats “snowflakes.”
This Washington Post article https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2017/07/20/half-of-liberals-cant-even-stand-to-be-around-trump-supporters/?utm_term=.1a8047a7fee1 reports on a Pew Research Center survey that says “almost half of liberal Democrats — 47 percent — say that if a friend supported Trump, it would actually put a strain on their friendship.” We are at a place in our country right now where Democrats and Republicans can’t even be friends, much less be married. I find this one of the saddest parts of our political climate.
Just last week I had dinner with one of my dearest childhood friends, one of the sisters of my heart. We are on different ends of the political spectrum. I’m pretty much a “not my president” kind of gal and she’s worked inside a Republican White House and for current Republican leaders I do not like. On most major issues we vote differently – abortion, health care, immigration – if it’s hot button, we disagree. Her life work is in politics, fighting against causes I celebrate. In our open, warm, honest conversation, like the thousands we have had since we met at the seventh grade bus stop, we asked questions, and spoke our minds, and listened and agreed to disagree.
In sharing that conversation with various people since, the reaction has uniformly been, “How can you even be friends with someone who votes that way, and thinks that way, and works that way?”
I’m saddened by that question. I love her. I know her heart and she knows mine. I trust her to have difficult conversations with me, to listen and answer my questions with respect, and to still love me, even though my beliefs are counter to hers. My beliefs are based on 44 years of experience, reading, discussion and thought. I’m confident that what I believe is right. But my friend has her 44 years as well.
I certainly do not think I have the answers. It’s very possible I’m wrong. What I’m most sure of is that refusing to listen to each other because we think we are enemies is the wrong way to truth. The right way, the only way, to arrive at truth is through free and open discussion. Socrates said that.
Socrates did not think he knew the answers to all questions. But he saw that no one else knew them either and so his questions where open to debate for all people. If we start with the premise that we don’t have all the answers, and neither does anyone else, and we really listen to each other as we debate the questions, we can hopefully find truth.
What that requires is a willingness to listen, an openness to being wrong, and trust. My friend and I can have these conversations because we trust and love each other. Now that I’m older, I realize James Carville and Mary Matalin can be married because they love and trust each other. As Dionne Warwick sang to us in 1966, "What the world needs now, is love, sweet love." Less name-calling, less anger, less defensiveness, and more love. As always, it starts with me.