reaching across the aisle

In order to get a few people to read something I wrote, I posted it in the comment section of Brandon Stanton’s (HONY) open letter to Donald Trump. I got a healthy response. While there were a few negative reactions, several people replied that they shared many of the same feelings that I had, and they were glad to see them articulated.

I learned a lot from the people who commented and also from those who took the time to read and then “like” my post. They were so geographically diverse. It forced me to look at and crush the generalizations I have made about people in different parts of the country. It infuriated me when Ted Cruz encouraged everyone to insinuate what “New York Values” were, and yet before this post, I had no problem making blanket statements about people in the South or small towns in the Northeast.

I remember when I first got sober, a heroin addict made an effort to befriend me. I was hesitant at first. I was just an alcoholic. I thought, I am not as sick as this girl. Then I heard her speak at a meeting. With every word my judgmental wall began to crumble. The whole time in my head I thought, “I did that too,” or “I feel the exact same way.”

Apparently this is a lesson I have to learn over and over again—to stop judging the insides by the outsides.

While all the positive comments from around the country (and even a few from around the world!!) made me feel good, they also made me start to question if I had really affected any change. I put my message out to a population largely made up of like-minded individuals whose liberal leanings mirror my own. So a lot of people agreed with what I wrote. But I don’t believe I changed any minds. Of course I can’t know for sure but my gut tells me there weren’t any Trump supporters that read my post and thought, “hmm, you know I didn’t think of it that way, maybe I should take a closer look at the candidates.”

There is a certain population of Trump supporters I believe to be unreachable. I’m guessing that that 20% of his supporters who believe Emancipation should be repealed could not be swayed by or even consider reading something from a mixed woman of color like myself.

I guess I’d like to speak to the other 80%. As of now, I stay in my lane all day long and you stay in yours. Although we may search for unbiased reporting, I consume the liberal-based media outlets and you the conservative. We read through different threads—my peers calling yours uneducated, yours calling mine self-righteous. We hit the pillow at night with anger and resentment; we’ve labeled each other the “opposition” and we cannot even begin to understand what the other believes.

But what if that’s not true? What if we could begin to understand each other? What if we tried? I know a Bernie Sander’s supporter and a Trump supporter believe they are a world apart. But what if they aren’t? I get that there are some fundamental beliefs that are very different. But aren’t both of these groups fed up with the current system? Aren’t both of these groups convinced that politics need to change in our country? These beliefs seem pretty fundamental to me and are largely at the core of the two most passionate campaign populations. But these two groups don’t talk to each other. They attack. They argue.

No matter what side of the aisle we are on, I think we’ve all failed in acknowledging that we are part of the system, and therefore part of the problem. I’ve heard both Democrats and Republicans voice their outrage over our elected officials complete lack of ability to work with each other. Our Congress is corrupt and embarrassing. Every time I read about another stalemate I think a kindergarten class could accomplish more than this group that we have elected—and with less finger pointing and name-calling.

Our government is a reflection of us! Democrats and Republicans bicker in Congress and they bicker on NY Times threads. If we are to demand change and insist on politicians who put their personal differences aside and work for the greater good, then we must place those same demands on ourselves. We have to reach out and make an effort to gain some understanding of people in the opposite party. We have to stop dreaming that the other will go away. We have to find some issues where some middle ground can be discovered and settled upon. We have to stop talking over each other and start listening with a compassion that considers where the other person is coming from.

If I am being honest, I don’t know that extending my hand out to a Trump supporter will do any good. I want to believe that the majority of the people voting for him are just scared and desperate for some type of change. I have yet to hear one of them clearly articulate how Trump’s policies would improve their lives because he has not actually given them any policy to reference. Still, I’m willing to have my ears, heart, and mind open to listen.

I get it. We are NOT going create some Utopia and all agree on everything. There are some beliefs that I feel so strongly about it makes me dizzy; I cannot possibly imagine a compromise. But let’s take a look at the bigger picture. We all fundamentally believe in our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. We all want our families to be safe. Unfortunately, our politics have blurred the focus essential in ensuring these basic rights for all of us. We have to start working together or we will tear each other apart. We are the leaders of the free world; isn’t it time we start acting like it?

My hope is that a few motivated people with the power to organize see this and feel compelled to work to bring those from different political backgrounds together. As long as we keep fighting each other, our politicians will continue to lose focus on what’s necessary to improve our economy and our security. They will be ineffective, just as we have been when we’ve surrounded ourselves only with people who think as we do, and angrily forced our beliefs into the threads of those who do not. We can only demand something different from our leaders if we are willing to enact it ourselves.

When faced with an argument with my husband, I always think one thing: Do I want to be right, or do I want to be happy? Compromise is essential. No matter whom we decide our new Commander in Chief will be in November, no one will have won. No one will ever win unless we find a way to work together and continue the dream that is America.

I support Bernie Sanders for President, with great passion and enthusiasm; I believe in what he stands for. But I also believe in thoughtfully and realistically looking at our future and considering how we can make the best of it if things don’t go our way.

One thought on “reaching across the aisle

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