In trying to grapple with the reality of the upcoming election next week, I’ve been thinking about larger questions of compromise in politics that are heavily tied to moral and ethical questions. How do we interact with those who disagree with us politically and socially? What topics are we willing to compromise on? And what will it take for us to end relationships over such disagreements? This is just a beginning post, and I have no real answers, just more questions.
It would be easier if I just abstained from talking to people in general. That way, I could avoid political disagreements altogether.
Politics is such a touchy subject for my generation, and rightfully so. Because our political standing is so heavily tied to how we view ourselves in moral/ethical terms. I don’t know if it is the same way in other countries, but in the United States in particular, our political parties like to always claim moral high ground, as if that makes them better politicians. And some may say that being moral or ethical is a necessity in a politician, while others wouldn’t.
I am of the former group. While I totally get why politicians should be hardened and steadfast, who’s to say that that makes them better in office? I am more connected to and inspired by those politicians who believe in racial and gender-based equity, who support the LGBTQ+ community, believe in a safe and steady path to citizenship and don’t think that deportation is an adequate immigration reform policy.
I tie my political standing closely to my own moral or ethical beliefs. It doesn’t make sense to me to not vote my values. Maybe that’s idealistic or naïve, but I’m fine being associated with those two terms.
I think a lot of people my age do this too. But, it becomes really difficult to be politically engaged when your political beliefs can’t really be taken away from who you are as a person.
It’s like this.
We’ll say stuff like, “I respect you, but not your choices/decisions/beliefs.”
I don’t remember when I first heard this, but it’s something I constantly hear now whenever I engage with people that have differing political opinions. It’s as if they want to preface their argument with a disclaimer. “I’m about to totally offend you, but no hard feelings because you’re an okay person!”
And while I used to and sometimes still do think that way in certain situations, I think it’s a total cop out. It makes it easier for us to distance ourselves from an ideology that is offensive or harmful to us. But, can we really have a relationship of respect with someone who believes in something that is inherently detrimental to our own beliefs or way of life? Now that I’m a little older, I really don’t think we can.
Look. Disagreement is normal. If we all agreed with one another, we’d be living in an apparent utopia (and we’ve all read some sort of dystopian fiction, so we know that shit doesn’t work).
But whenever we say we respect someone, but not their beliefs, it’s not usually a little disagreement over if cake or pie is better (pie is the correct answer). We’re talking about big issues with real implications on the survival and subsequent thriving of specific groups of people.
When we say things like we respect you, but we disagree with you, it makes us think it’s okay to be friends with people who are homophobic or racist or islamophobic or sexist or bigoted in general, because really, “they’re good people who are misguided/ignorant/misinformed”.
And I’m not saying cutting off ties with those people is easy or is what you should do.
It’s hard, because we all have friends or family who think, say, and act on things we don’t agree with. And I think we’d all end up as hermits in our own isolated caves if we just cut off ties with people who disagreed with us on moral and ethical questions.
But there comes a time when you have to decide how much are you willing to let slide, how much privilege you hold in allowing things to not be bothersome to you, and whether or not your disagreements are theoretical or have actual consequences.
Example? As a cisgendered, heterosexual womxn, I can totally choose to let homophobia run rampant because it’s not something that actively impacts me on a daily basis. I have the privilege of not even being aware of certain things happening in the LGBTQ+ community. But then, if a close family member says something homophobic, or says that gay people shouldn’t be married, I would probably be like, “hey that’s a damaging thing to say. Why do you think that?” (okay, I would probably say it with more emotional vigor than that, but you get my point). What difference would it make if that family member was a distant relative that I rarely saw or spoke with? Would I be more or less likely to speak up? And then, what if it was a friend who said it, or even someone I didn’t like much already?
I guess my biggest question is where and how do you draw the line between simple disagreements and topics you consider so important that disagreement results in “damaging” a relationship? And how do you know whether or not you should end a relationship, or put in the emotional work of doing your best to understand each others’ perspectives so as to have dialogue that can maybe persuade the other person to “being on the right side of history” so to speak.
[About to get on my political soapbox…you have been warned]
Okay. Truth time. I have friends and family who support Trump. On a normal basis, I would be like, “that’s cool. Support politicians who you think have your best interest at heart.” In millennial speak, “you do you.”
But I’m at this point where I really don’t want people to just have their own interests at heart. We are not an isolationist nation (although there have been pockets in time when we were…Chinese Exclusion Act, tyvm…)
Think of people outside of your family or friend group–outside of your realm of existence. You’ve already spent the past year of this crazed political race thinking about what your own future would be. Now think about someone you don’t know, someone you probably will never know. Think of someone who is of a different racial group, economic class, gender identity, sexuality, ability than you. Really think of that person in all of their being, as uncomfortable as it might be for you. What would life be like for them if Trump was elected? If Clinton was elected? What would our political system look like? What would our America look like?
I know it’s all theoretical and imaginative, but think of the people you claim to respect, despite disagreement. Would you really be okay with their reality if you continue to believe the things you do, say the things you do, or act on the things you believe in?
Ultimately, this post could go on forever, but I have a lot of breadsticks to eat, so I’ll leave it here.
Have you cut ties with people who disagreed with you? How did you do it and what was the breaking point? I’d be interested to know if other people feel this same way.
PS: don’t forget to vote if you can. and tweet goodbyes to our bbs Barack & Michelle. xoxo.