During past elections, I have been frustrated with my fringe political friends who refused to vote for the main-stream candidate because that person “didn’t represent their personal values”. They didn’t seem to understand the long game of politics, where you don’t always get exactly what you want, especially if your group makes up a small percentage of voters. It’s like having a toddler tantrum in the store because your mom won’t buy you Froot Loops, and then you go home with nothing when you could at least have had Cheerios. Of course, the stakes in policy-making are much bigger than breakfast cereal.
Much to my surprise, I found myself behaving exactly this same way in the most recent election. I heard myself thinking and saying things about people voting on the “other” side of the political fence that were judgmental and debasing. I assumed that they were stupid and ignorant, that they didn’t have any right to put their demands on the table and be heard. It’s like developing a caste system for voters, and placing myself in the upper caste for having “better” values.
What a wakeup to reality when the election results showed that almost half the people in the U.S. are on that “other” side of the fence. My values do not represent a clear-cut majority. Many voters on the “other” side are just as disgusted with me, for looking down at them from my elite liberal ivory tower of educational and financial opportunity.
Doesn’t everyone, no matter what side of the fence you’re on, want to be seen and valued? In your childhood, by your parents? In adulthood, by family and friends? In our cultural and ethnic and religious and racial groups, by greater society?
If we all want to be seen and included, then we need to get that fence out of the way. We need to see and include everyone, even people we disagree with. If your opinion disrespects someone else’s existence, maybe I need to find out what fear is behind that opinion. Maybe my stated value of inclusion needs to actually apply to everyone. Can I tolerate intolerance? The only way to get there is to be a better listener. And the only way to be a better listener is through the ear of the heart.