Social media makes it possible to offend literally thousands of family members, friends, business partners, and acquaintances in one fell swoop. I know this because I do it pretty regularly.
I’m American and I’m also what Conservatives call a “Liberal snowflake,” a term that makes me CACKLE. In reality, I’m more of a left-leaning moderate, and I was never into politics until 2016, when the Presidential election shook me awake.
These days, I find myself appalled almost daily, and I have a lot of opinions, which I share freely both in person and online. However, voicing my personal thoughts opens me up to criticism from people who don’t agree with me, and sometimes — particularly online — they hit below the belt.
Now, try to be patient with me as I explain something ground-breaking. Something astounding. Lean in, everyone, and listen closely: It’s possible for two people to have different views and outlooks on life and still remain friends.
Shocking, right? I know.
My husband and I have differing opinions on almost everything, from whether or not the stories in the Bible actually happened, to how we feel about healthcare benefits, to which artist performed the best Super Bowl halftime show. We did not vote for the same candidate in the local or national elections last year. We often debate issues such as abortion and gun control, and sometimes I wonder how we ended up with each other, but part of what makes our relationship work is that we challenge each other. Discussing complicated matters with people who don’t always agree with me is how I choose to grow as a person. Sometimes it’s exciting and interesting, and other times it’s exhausting. We have to keep talking about the tough stuff, even when it’s uncomfortable.
Once upon a time, I lived in a bubble. Everyone looked like me, thought like me, shared the same religious beliefs, and followed the same rules. While there is definitely a feeling of security that comes with living in a vacuum, it’s also incredibly toxic, and, I venture to say, dangerous. People become stagnant when their views are unchallenged; they become out of touch with reality. This is why, even though it’s hard, we cannot allow the rocky political climate to destroy our relationships. We HAVE to persist understanding. We have to remember to be kind to each other.
My friends and I don’t always share the same opinions regarding current events, and most of my family members are staunch Republicans who think I’m crazy for voting for — gasp! — Hillary. There are lots and lots of reasons why we could be at each other’s throats, and sometimes I kind of want to throttle those I love the most, but it’s very important not to allow what’s happening to destroy our relationships. At least, not the ones that really matter.
After all, I’ve learned the most from people who don’t think like me.
So, how do we prevent the political climate from tearing us asunder? NEVER STOP TALKING. Look around you. Do you have people in your life who are different from you? Good! Ask them questions. Send them articles and ask, with genuine interest, what they think about it. Force yourself to read the news sites that make you eye roll. Consider it a character-building exercise. Spend time in different parts of your city. Observe those who live and work there.
Above all, don’t condescend, don’t antagonize, and don’t call names — and for God’s sake, STOP USING THE TERM LIBERAL SNOWFLAKE.
The moment we stop talking is the moment that progress stops. We’re all sharing the same air and water supply, after all, and if it goes to sh*t, we’re going to need each other.