Bridges Over Political Differences

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My family reunion this weekend provided a solution to many of the worlds conflicts. I am an independent with loads of criticism for all political parties. I am liberal on some social issues, conservative on others, and the same is true for economic and constitutional issues. Many of the family members I went to visit this weekend are staunch republicans. I dislike republicans only a little more than democrats, but, this was a reunion and not a political referendum. So, I went to visit great cousins and aunts, uncles and parents, some of whom I have not seen in 45 years. We embraced, and exchanged courtesies, demonstrated interest in what each other were doing, etc. It felt wonderful, inclusive and warm to be in the midst of family who didn't ask or care what party I was affiliated with. However, some extremist political positions were revealed by some family members in the course of otherwise seemingly innocuous conversation.

Late that evening I returned to my motel, and readied for sleep. However, it did not come for hours. I lay there, pondering how it was that I could hold such contempt and criticism for the American political parties and their leaders, and yet feel so warm and loving toward family who were strong supporters of policies I believe are ruining this nation and to some extent, my daughter's future here. In the throws of cognitive dissonance, it dawned on me about 4 A.M. how it was so easy to embrace my adversary family members. It was such a simple understanding. I knew right away it was true and valid.

I went to the reunion seeking commonality and reestablishment of relationships. In the course of hours of conversation, we all were seeking topics to share with each other that were common to us and safe, non-confrontational and yet informative. And it was easy. We all found we had an unending supply of experiences and memories and aspirations to share with each other that were common to us all. This made establishing relationships with each other utterly easy and simple. When I left, I did so with fondness and warmth toward my relatives.

Now these are the same people that would give me cause to engage in intense pitched debate at a political rally, brainstorming session on political strategy and goals, or a planning session on the direction for America in the future. But, we took the time to focus on what we had in common and that allowed us to establish a respectful relationship. I realized that when I go back home to engage in political debate and strategy about the future of America, I must enter such discussions first seeking what we have in common and what we can agree on. I must carefully sidestep confrontational issues for a bit, until we have established that relationship of respect based on shared experiences, goals, and hopes. Once that relationship is established, we can move on to explore divisive issues, asking each other how it is we hold the views we do, rather than accusing each other of holding the views we do. The difference is subtle, but tremendous. The difference is respect for each other based on inclusiveness and shared themes. This respect can lead to discussion and discovery of our differences, without hostility toward, or fear of, those differences.

Once, I had resolved this in my mind, I was able to sleep well. And I did. We are all a part of the American family, living in the same society, sharing similar goals and desires, fears and frustrations. As a family we have an obligation to ourselves, to seek commonality with our adversaries, before delving into our differences. It saves us emotionally from much hostility and frustration, and opens doors for understanding and "walking in the shoes of the other". It opens the door to appreciation of how they came to hold their views. Where the views differ, because of respect, there is room for exploring bridges to agreement. And where some bridges may not bring us to agreement, our sense of respect and commonality, allow us to reverse course and seek another bridge toward agreement all the time keeping each other's company and sharing the journey in search of another bridge.

David Remer, June 9, 2003

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This page contains a single entry by David R. Remer published on June 9, 2003 12:29 PM.

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F.A.I.R. is fair! is the next entry in this blog.

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