I remember the first time I participated in a presidential election. The next day, an acquaintance asked me who I had voted for and I made the mistake of telling her. I was young, naive and still under the impression that we lived in a free country where everyone could vote as they wished. How wrong I was.
She scolded and criticized me and promised to hold me personally responsible for any harm that befell this great nation from that day forward. I was so ashamed that I begged her forgiveness and promised to ask her advice before the next election. No I didn’t.
I realized then that all of us are the most open to hearing another person’s opinion when it’s exactly like ours. It was the first of many lessons I’ve learned about partisanship. Here are some others:
1) If everyone I know agrees with me on every issue, either I don’t have enough friends or the ones I have are afraid to speak their minds around me. I was once at an event where another guest suggested it was okay to beat up people from the political party he was not affiliated with. He was joking—I think. But I noticed no one else mentioned their party affiliation.
2) I can’t change anyone’s mind—unfortunately. But then no one can change mine either. Several years ago, an acquaintance asked me how I planned to vote in the upcoming election. Having learned from the previously-mentioned experience, I mumbled my answer and prepared to take cover if necessary. But instead of criticizing me, this woman said gently, “Let me educate you.” Those were her exact words. Being open minded, I said. “I’d love that. Let’s have lunch and talk. I’ll buy.” No I didn’t.
Occasionally, we change our mind. Our thinking evolves as we take in new information. But I don’t think we ever change our mind because someone tries to “educate” us. And I know for certain we never change it because someone calls us a boneheaded nitwit on Facebook.
3) We should never behave as badly as the people we think behave badly—in other words, those from the other party. I know of a columnist who was shoved against the wall with a shopping cart by a man who disagreed with her politics. I don’t know why he didn’t just stop reading her column.
Her first instinct was to pull out her phone and pretend to video him, though she was too upset to actually do it. It was a good strategy and one I’ll use if I’m ever attacked by someone who doesn’t like my column. The guy stomped away rather than have his behavior show up on YouTube. And I’m sure he was thinking she was the one who was a danger to society.
4) People don’t need my permission to believe what they believe, though I really wish they did. I know a man who, after being followed closely for several blocks, pulled his car over to see if there was a problem. Two men got out of the other car and strongly suggested he remove his political bumper sticker. Fortunately that’s all they did. In case you’re wondering, he didn’t take their advice, and I bet he doesn’t check with them before he gets another one either.
I’ve always thought that if people of different viewpoints worked together, things could be better for everybody. But maybe that’s just something I heard on Sesame Street.
It’s worth a try though. Let’s you and I rise above the fray and respect other people’s beliefs—foolish as they may be. Let’s never take for granted how wonderful it is to live in a land where everyone can think what they think. Of course, unless they think like we do, they’re not only woefully misinformed, they’re a few chads short of a full ballot. Still, isn’t it wonderful?
(Dorothy Rosby is the author of three books of humorous essays including Alexa’s a Spy and Other Things to Be Ticked off About, Humorous Essays on the Hassles of Our Time. Contact [email protected])
A very nonpartisan rant against partisanship