I was seated at a poolside table. I looked up and our eyes locked. He came toward me . . . both of our arms outstretched. “My favorite Republican!” “My favorite Democrat!” spoken in unison as we embraced. A friendship that spanned more than ten years. Love of family, dinner theater, parties, country club life, this is the common ground we share.
Political discussions between Kenneth and me, date back to 2008. Our viewpoints are different. But we talk. We share ideas. We joke. We socialize. We respect each other. We meet on common ground.
In 2020, the pandemic kept us from in-person contact. But as the election approached, we emailed our views, with the conclusion that the nation might have a chance of uniting if he and I ran as president and vice president.
A strong, loving family; prosperity derived from well-paying employment; quality education; security for our children; a fair chance for the American dream of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Is this not the common ground that we all share?
The polarization in this country is not so much in the goals we want, but in the means to achieve them, and who we deem worthy of receiving them. Much of our discord comes from words expressing hatred. Our nation separates church and state. Yet if we turn inward to the source of our spiritual beliefs, none of our religions are founded on hatred. All teach love of our fellow human beings.
The major news channels, which spout more opinion than straight-factual news, combined with social media, which spew more opinions with questionable fact-based sources, stir up the emotions that feed polarization.
It’s human nature to enjoy hanging with like-minded people. But this is a first in my lifetime to see friendships that are based on politics. As with me, I’m sure you have some Kenneths in your life—friends with an entirely different political persuasion. Most likely when you became friends, party affiliation was not the friendship determiner that brought you together. Several people have shared stories of their struggles navigating friend and family relationships when politics have been added to the mix. Now, more than ever, it’s important to remember the qualities that inspired the formation of the relationship. To call them forth and nourish those qualities.
What happened to communication, dialogue, and most important of all, listening? Listening with your mouth shut, not preparing your rebuttal, your argument. Listening with the intent of understanding the other person’s point of view. Listening with empathy.
Difficult as it may be, perhaps we can take the risk to open up conversation on our differing political ideas. Perhaps we may inspire change in each other’s perspective. Or we may peacefully agree to disagree. But let’s keep the communication and understanding intact. Let’s try to reduce polarity and nurture unity within our nation by calling forth common ground, one friendship at a time.
written by Amy Bryant, Safety Harbor resident blogger
Author of You Can Go Home Again