The other day my friends and I talked politics; I’ll just say upfront, nobody killed anybody. There wasn’t even rage. There was some confusion, but then we had more coffee and it was all …
The other day my friends and I talked politics; I’ll just say upfront, nobody killed anybody. There wasn’t even rage. There was some confusion, but then we had more coffee and it was all good
The topic du jour was “Who Are the Republicans?”
“People don’t realize,” my friend said, “that there is no one ‘Republican.’ We’re all different.”
“We all just want a decent job, a family, a home,” said another.
“Maybe coffee. Lots more coffee.” (That may have been a hint.)
I paused to channel my late dad. Being GOP, for him, meant taking responsibility for your own life and protecting the people you love. He was also the first in our neighborhood to recycle back in the ‘70s, because he also believed that we get one world, and it’s our job to take care of it.
Then I brought up the people I see online, who sound angry or sound scared, and who just want to be heard—using other people’s words, because I’m the only non-Republican in the group. We love each other anyway.
I grew up in a Republican family: a very Republican family, in Arizona, home of Barry Goldwater and a seedbed for the modern right-wing Libertarian movement. Dad was involved in local politics, so my parents went to all the dinners, Mom in her black dress and with her hair done, Dad in a suit. They donated. We had lectures at supper, Dad explaining why Nixon got rail-roaded for something that everyone did, how Reagan would get rid of inflation and save America.
We’d been Republican since Teddy Roosevelt—it was in our DNA—so I of course grew up to be a Democrat.
My dad and I argued about everything from caring for the poor to paying for schools. Thing was, though, we both believed the goals were valuable; we just disagreed on how to get there.
Do people still argue like that? Supposedly our differences are so deep that we no longer have shared language. Conversation is limited to the weather or our favorite cat memes on the internet. (Moment of silence for Grumpy Cat and Lil Bub.)
But is that story true? Are we really not talking to each other?
Despite what the news says about how politics divides us, I still talk to my friends and family who call themselves conservative, though sometimes it feels like I’m their token liberal, offered up as a kind of example, or maybe a specimen in the political zoo: “See? They’re human!”
Some of my friends think there’s a barrier of misunderstanding. That people, both liberal and conservative, are too quick to judge, too quick to see insult or take what’s meant as commentary as a personal attack, or think that genuine questions are actually sarcasm in disguise. Some people are carrying heavy burdens, and the time it takes to listen is just more work.
Maybe the real problem is that all the words just cover up our worries about who we are as a country and what we value.
It’s (still) January, and many of us are trying to maintain those resolutions we made weeks ago. This one is mine: I want to learn what issues people on the right and left are thinking about. I’ll talk to friends and family and strangers, anyone who’ll take the time to explain why they have the opinions they do.
If anyone’s interested, I can share. No real names or locations will be used; social media can be ugly.
Says my friend Katherine, “Let’s talk about individual problems and suggest solutions from various points of view. As if we’re having coffee together.”
I’ll throw a topic out there: What do you struggle with?
If you have something to say, or something to ask, write a letter to the editor by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org and Schuetz will respond in the next installment of “Right Here.”