For the past several months, I’ve been thinking about and supporting others in taking steps towards healing the seemingly uncomfortable divide between people – our families, communities, countries and others in the world. It can seem so hard to even open a conversation about our political differences, let alone to locate common ground that we can agree on.
I have people in my life who I love dearly who appear to hold radically differing political views than I – and we’ve chosen not to discuss it. I think this is because of our desire to maintain our connection and respect for one another. I see it based in mutual love and caring.
Yet, there’s a distance between us that wasn’t apparent to me before, even though we have always voted differently in the past. So, I’ve been curious about how to enter into a dialogue that would create greater connection and to renew our past connection.
Recently, I had an opportunity and I grabbed it. I was in the car with two family members and I began our conversation about a recent situation that happened here in the USA in Charlottesville, North Carolina, and I said, “So, regardless of your views on how the situation was handled, or who you think was to blame in the Charlottesville situation, I’m wondering what your thoughts are on keeping or removing prominent statues depicting leaders of the Civil War’s Confederate Army. I ask because I have mixed feelings about those images.” Then, I told them what my mixed views were and asked them theirs.
In the process, we ended up having a very respectful conversation about that topic that then moved into their and my feelings about our current president and other greatly conflicting political issues in the USA today.
In at least three different occasions, I pointed out that it seemed we wanted the same things and they agreed – every time. The entire conversation lasted about 20 minutes.
As far as connection goes, it was exquisite for me and served as a kind of reuniting and remembering of why I love them. Why their presence in my life matters so much to me. And why their opinion matters to me.
None of us changed our fundamental views about ‘how’ we wanted things to change. None of us changed our views about our president. What we did was remember that, though our specific preferred methods are different, our needs are the same. We three are all loving, caring people who want the best for ourselves and the people of our country and world. We three want people to be able to support themselves and to receive some support from our government. We three want dignity for ourselves and others. We three want the arms of our government to work together toward the common good. We three value respect. We three want people to experience safety and peace.
And, that distance between us that I had felt before melted significantly. Not entirely, but an opening was created that I am still enjoying.
I believe that these kinds of conversations between family members and communities, along with systemic changes are imperative to support ongoing healing across our world. Each one of them starts with one person being willing to step forward with a sincere desire to see the world from the other person’s perspective, and looking for the places where we can agree.