On Politics and Friendship

I hate politics and board games for the same reason: Competition brings out the worst in people. John Green put it best when he said,aaaf32583898a48c57fa96bba55c4364-jpg

Thus far, I have kept myself out of the online political fray. There are a number of reasons for this–not least of which my feeling that being one more siren won’t be productive. But I want to tell a story–one whose moral will become clear once I’ve told it.

I had a lot of trouble making friends in school–or, at least, I always felt like I did. I transferred from Christian to public school for this reason in tenth grade. I didn’t realize that telling my new classmates this would set me apart. I was very obviously conservative, even though I didn’t mean to be, and I had a decidedly open temperament. In short, from the moment I enrolled at Triton Regional High School, I became not only the New Kid, but Different.

But I wasn’t shunned. Quite the opposite: My peers were compelled to ask me questions about what I believed. Some days it was flattering; other days it was hostile. One guy in particular would ask me questions, hoping to stump me. Once I demonstrated that he hadn’t, he would walk away, even if I was mid-sentence.

Enter Lindsay. Lindsay came from a background that was similar to mine, though she tended toward the liberal end of things. I was intimidated by her brash ways and her mouth that would make a sailor blush. But Lindsay was and is loyal and determined. Our friendship was cemented during senior year: I cut class one day because another girl was harassing me (about a boy, nothing serious), and Lindsay told her in no uncertain terms to leave me alone and keep my name out of her mouth. She never bothered me again, and Lindsay’s place in my heart became permanent.

Almost from the moment I met her, Lindsay had questions–and she wasn’t afraid to ask them. She never baited me; she genuinely wanted to hear my thoughts. We talked about everything from dinosaurs and evolution to purity and dating to whether I believed in purgatory. Usually, I had answers to her questions–but, when I didn’t, Lindsay was more than happy to allow me time for reflection and study. I’d come back a day or two later and we’d discuss my findings. Despite our manifold similarities, Lindsay and I almost always came down on opposite sides of things (remember being sixteen and seeing everything in black and white? *sigh*). While I’m sure we made a number of waitresses uncomfortable–and that one clerk in an otherwise abandoned consignment shop that one time–I never once felt threatened when Lindsay and I disagreed. I was never afraid that she would love me less if I told her what I really believed. I never worried that my religion or political views would break our relationship. And Lindsay never, ever silenced me–so I have done my best not to silence her (I don’t know if I ever have, but it’s safer not to claim perfection, right?).

It’s been almost ten years and that hasn’t changed, although we have. I’m married and straight, Lindsay is a lesbian who still waffles about whether she’s ready for a lifelong commitment (like a normal twenty-something). I’m politically moderate-leaning-conservative and she’s pretty darn liberal–although we agree that both candidates have more than a handful of issues. I’m a Christian, and Lindsay believes in the Universe and the connectivity of the human race. I love and respect her, and she affords me the same.

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This is us at senior prom. Look at how cute and happy we are. Also OH MY GOSH remember taking selfies with cameras?!

I once heard author Kat Spears say that she includes people of color in her books because “that’s just my reality.” Until recently, my reality has included civil discourse between opposed parties. It’s been one in which people have felt free to disagree, and to use that conversation to grow themselves as individuals. I have lived in a world where I was allowed to disagree with my more liberal friends while seeing that their views come from a place of compassion. It’s a place in which I’ve respectfully agreed to disagree with countless people–even other Christians–and we’ve all been better for it.

With John Green, I am baffled by the culture I find myself thrust into. (That being said, I am grateful–now more than ever–for those three years in public school.) I want to grow as a human being, but the idea of intentionally entering political discourse sounds like a form of ritual suicide. But how can I learn without discourse? How can I grow without being challenged? How can I understand both sides of the issues without intelligent conversation from both sides? In a world where we block people who disagree with us, where “good vibes only” translates to “identical minds only,” I’m not sure that I can.

So that’s where I’m at, internet. Maybe I’ll get back to book reviews after the election. Maybe I’ll keep devoting my whole self to my manuscript. We shall see.

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