I can’t give up on you. In this polarized America, it has become fashionable to avoid conversation on certain issues with your friends and relatives once you determine that you are on opposite poles of the issue you want to discuss. The problem with doing this is that you create a kind of parallel universe where our interpretations of the world we live in are no longer grounded it fact. We get to the point that we only see what we believe. When this happens in a country, the country can no longer exist as a single entity. At best, it will devolve into two separate societies equally controlled by the demagogues of those societies to the detriment of both sides and at worst degenerate into a tragic civil war in which both sides all but completely destroy one another (think Syria). Since I’m committed to doing everything I can as an individual to avoid either catastrophe, I can’t give up on you, no matter how uncomfortable I am with imposing my personal views on you and revealing things about myself and my life that I would much prefer remain private, no matter how much I hate to make you feel uncomfortable, no matter mater how hurtful it is to feel your rejection inherent in your lack of any response to what I say. I do it because I feel this is no time to be comfortable with who we are at the expense of becoming something different and perhaps greater and better than we are today. As much as I hate it and as much as it pains me to do so, I make it my business to watch Fox News at least once a week to get a sense of the point of view of my friends who sit on the opposite pole from me. I have to tell you that given my point of view of things, Fox News is scary as hell. It’s like watching the realization of George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, a book that scared the heck out of me in high school.
But that’s all the more reason I remain committed to do everything I can to make sure my friends at least understand my point of view, even if they don’t agree with it. Hopefully, that understanding will lead them to be comfortable enough to share their opinions with me. I have one such friend who used to exchange ideas with me all the time, especially in the run up to the 2016 elections. It got to the point where he said it was too upsetting to him to talk about it. We both were very candid in our opinions and not at all tactful in how we expressed our ideas. I regret that I honored his request and confined our future communications to trivia of various sorts. The fact is his opinions did have an impact on me. Before our email exchanges, I thought the illegal immigration issue was not a serious issue given some of the other problems the country was facing. After our email exchanges, I begun to see it was a serious issue and needed the full attention of the government to solve what is a very complex problem. My comments to him also had obvious impact evidenced by his upset with what I was saying. That was the very time we needed to keep talking.
To give you an idea of why this is so crucial, I sent a group email out to several friends to recommend a movie I had just seen and was very excited about. The movie was Black Clansman by director Spike Lee. Besides being exceedingly entertaining, I thought the movie was thought provoking and poignant when considered against today’s headlines. Most of the group thanked me for the recommendation and went on to talk about Tiger’s performance on the final day of the PGA golf tournament. One of my friends was the one who I used to have the frank email communications with before the end of 2016. He sent me a private response recommending I see a movie called Death of a Nation, which supposedly exposes the vast “deep state” left wing conspiracy the Alt Right is always talking about. His response led me to conclude two things. First, the ideas espoused by right wing extremist are not just embraced by uneducated, misguided, entitled white people, but also white people that I consider highly educated and well read. Second, perhaps my friend is willing to engage in a dialogue with me again. I should tell you that this friend of mine is like a brother to me and one of those people in life who if I had to walk down a dark dangerous alley, I would want watching my back. And yet, we see the world in vastly different realities. My relationship with him is important enough to me that I never want us to lose sight of who we really are and what we mean to each other, in spite of our vastly different opinions of the political landscape. If we do that, we will always agree to play by the same rules and not insist on our way or death. That is why no mater how prickly the conversation, we must never stop talking to one another and remain respectful of each other’s opinions.
I’m having a hard time finding the movie my friend recommended, but out of respect for his opinion, I’m determined to watch it. Hopefully, that will be an opening for us to resume our candid dialogue on the issues of our lives. It is only out of that kind of communication we can come to a common agreement on reality and facts and not be vulnerable to those who would manipulate us to our demise on both poles of opinion. Don’t get me wrong. I still feel the country needs to hit the reset button on congress and rid it of almost all sitting Republicans, not because they are Republicans, but because they have been complicit in undermining our democracy. However, I do understand that my opinion about that is just my opinion and that it is not shared by a lot of well meaning people. It is right that we all fight hard for our opinions to prevail at the polls, but it is just as critical we feel that we’ve all been heard and the process was fair and valid. That’s why we must never stop communicating.