A Plea for Tolerance

Sometimes I wish we could go back to the time when talking about politics wasn’t considered “polite” conversation.

Because frankly, in my little corner of the world, very little of the discussion about politics is polite at all. It’s a knock-down-drag-out fight to the death. The my-guy-is-better-than-your-guy and if-you-don’t-agree,-you’re-a-dumbass kind of event.

In an effort to “win” we demonize people that, under any other circumstances, we would show compassion for. Anyone who doesn’t agree with us becomes “other” and therefore foreign, even if the people on the other side are people we’ve known for years, liked, worked with, and shared a laugh or two.

Maybe I notice these things as a political minority in my personal bubble. I’m not sure if the election results will continue to show that I’m the political majority (my guy won twice, in case you wondered) but in my online, social, and familial bubbles, I’m a clear minority.

It shapes how you talk about politics when you’re one voice among dozens (and sometimes hundreds). There’s safety in perceiving yourself to be in the majority, the feeling that “everyone agrees with me” allows you to say what you want, share what you want, etc. Hell, if that was my reality, I’m sure I’d be the same way.

And truly, this type of minority isn’t the domain of any one political party. I’m sure it happens anytime one side is outnumbered by the other side.

But when you’re the small voice among much louder ones, there seem to be one of two ways you can go — loud and defiant (not my cup of tea) or quiet, holding back, saying little or nothing.

I’m the quiet one. If you know me or you pay attention to me, you’ll know my political leanings (which, truly, aren’t the point of this). It’s not that I can’t defend my beliefs, I can. You can’t constantly be in the minority and refuse to take the “easier” route of believing what everyone around you believes without being able to defend what you think.

It’s that I don’t want the conflict. I know it will devolve into name-calling. It will turn into hurt feelings, wounded pride, shouting in all caps, and zero changed minds.

I’ve had intelligent discussions with people (friends I trust) about my political beliefs. We went into it knowing we wouldn’t change the other person’s mind. All we wanted was to understand the other. It was strange, but good. And I knew then, as I know now, that it was a rare moment in political discourse.

Blame the media. Blame the politicians. Blame the political atmosphere, changing world, former recession, economy, whatever you want, but something has turned us against each other. Whatever you blame, make sure to spread it around to your side and the other side, though.

I don’t know when it started but from my untrained eyes (since I was too young to care at the time) it feels like it began when a sitting President was impeached for having extramarital affairs by politicians who were on the record of having their own extramarital affairs. And it’s only gotten worse.

We began to take sides.

And yes, point of fact, during the George W. Bush years, liberals said awful, awful things about their President. (I have to point that out because this is usually the point in the argument when someone says, “But they did it too!”) I didn’t like that, either. I didn’t agree with his politics, but he was still my president, and therefore deserved respect. Hell, he is a human being and deserves respect.

Since the popularity of social media, blogs, websites calling themselves “news,” and the ability of anyone with an internet connection to express themselves, the volume of vitriol, antagonism, and hatred has been turned up to 11.

And not just by those in power.

We’ve added to the noise. We’ve taken sides, forgetting there are real people on the opposing side. Sometimes they’re our colleagues. Sometimes our friends. Sometimes our own family. We demonize the other side, even though our rational mind should, and I hope does, know the things we say about the people who don’t agree with us can’t be true. Because if they are, you just painted your friend, your child, your mother, your co-worker with a pretty broad brush.

Really? Is your child the baby-killing, man-hating, politically correct monster that you deem all those who believe different than you “must” be? Is your business partner a dumb hick who only wants to oppress anyone different than them?

You know it’s not true (most of the time). You know you don’t feel that way about your own kid or your business partner or your cousin.

So why do you say those things online about an entire group of people? Because I promise you, in that mix is someone you claim to love or like.

And yes, I’m admonishing both sides of the political divide.

Tolerance is what we need. Tolerance for other beliefs. Tolerance that we all come at this life thing from different perspectives. Tolerance that not everyone who doesn’t agree with us is an evil person doomed to hell.

When I see people I’ve worked with, liked being around, hugged by the neck, and offered to help, say that “everyone who believes this way” is [insert derogatory comment here], it hurts. At that moment you’re talking about me, and I wonder if you’d say it to my face and mean it.

Maybe it’s just that we like to win. Maybe it’s that we believe so passionately, we can’t help ourselves. Maybe it’s easier to be upset at the opposing side than to realize we’ve all been played like fiddles by people in power who need us to continue this battle.

I don’t have answers. I don’t even have guesses. Not really.

I just know I don’t think this will end after election day (eight years of hearing a man I admire vilified at every turn tells me it won’t).

So maybe, just maybe, we should stop looking for color (blue or red) or affiliation (D or R) and start seeing each other as individuals. We have our own experiences, our own beliefs, our own needs, and our own desires.

Me disagreeing with you doesn’t make what you believe any less relevant. Just like seeing me as a caring, compassionate human being doesn’t mean you’re required to believe what I believe. We really can co-exist side by side.

We have to, don’t we?

Michaela Mitchell Visit Website
Storyteller. Writer. Introvert. Mom. Sarcastic, caffeine-fueled, type-A, over-thinker.
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