I have a good friend who voted for He-Who-Shall-Not-Be-Named. I don’t understand it. It’s upsetting to me. You’d think the temptation would be to write off the friendship and move on. Except that we truly like each other and enjoy one another’s company. She’s been a strong support for me when I’ve needed one, and vice versa. How do you just write that off?
I’ve known about her political leanings and she’s known mine. We’ve just stayed away from those topics. But that’s become impossible to do now. We had a phone conversation last week and waded into the deeper water. She talked about her experience of being a conservative living in a blue state, of keeping her mouth shut when friends and members of her church made disparaging remarks or assumptions about people like her. When she did “come out” at one gathering, she described her discomfort at having to immediately be able to defend her positions in a rather unsafe environment – even among friends.
On one hand, I can sympathize. No one should have to be afraid to claim their opinions or positions. On the other hand, I know I’d be in there pushing back on them.
And yet. We’ve been hearing since the election how we on the left haven’t listened, how we need to relearn how to be in conversation with those with whom we disagree. For heaven’s take, this is the exact same pitch I make for interfaith and intrafaith conversation! How can I not be willing to do the interpolitical work?
I am so aware of how easy I have it. I live in a solidly blue state. I reside in Berkeley; I work in San Francisco. My congregation is as progressive as you can get. There is no risk to me in speaking my mind and being an activist on progressive issues. In a very big way, I rejoice in this!
But now I have this little niggling voice in my ear telling me that it’s not enough. There’s work to be done in bridging the divisions among us and relearning how to have civil conversations. And what better way than to begin with a friend?
Respectful dialogue must begin with relationship-building. Participants must trust one another with their stories. My friend and I already have this, so it would seem that we have a foundation on which to build. In our phone conversation, we approached this possibility carefully. We both agreed that we’re not ready yet. Maybe after the inauguration, after I’m back from the Women’s March. We’ll see.
I confess, this is not a process I really want to undertake. But I believe it may be one to which I’m being called (really, God?!) But Epiphany is the season of revelation. I’m going to have to trust the guidance of the star of Wisdom on this one.