Originally Published: March 15, 2018 6:05 a.m.
“A house divided against itself cannot stand… I do not expect the house to fall …” – Abraham Lincoln
Though these words were spoken eight-score years ago as the country steamrolled toward the Civil War, they carry great weight today.
The political time in which America finds itself today is perilous because there appears to be very little amicable discourse.
People are voting because of the (R) or the (D) next to candidates’ names so “their” team can win even if a candidate isn’t worthy of the office they are seeking. Defining what is an “American” has two opposite answers.
Issues are not being discussed to find common ground, but rather conversations are about proving “I’m right and you’re wrong.”
People are separating themselves from others because they don’t want to be around those with opposite points of views, or people feel threatened to immerse themselves into a group because their political views don’t line up with the group and are afraid they’ll be attacked.
In January a reader named David Travis submitted a letter to one of our sister papers called, “Political division ended what was a blossoming friendship.” We posted it on dCourier.com.
Travis wrote he had met a couple, and they were becoming fast friends. That was until “we found that politically we were not on the same page.”
The new friendship was lost.
The vitriol plaguing the national conversation won’t be changed on Main Street by those of us who call the Prescott area home. However, we can address the local conversation, and how we treat our neighbors and friends with opposite views.
The Daily Courier editorial board does not pretend it has all the answers to get over these obstacles, but its members have found ways to get past opposite points of view and maintain friends despite the lively conversations that sometimes take place here.
Once differing political views are discovered, it’s important to focus on the things in common with friends rather than continuing to have heated political discussions. When the inevitable arrives and a political discussion is a must, remember to actively listen. Try using open-ended questions to get a deeper understanding of your friend’s position and continue with questions until you have completely understood what your friend has said.
Turn off the defensive mechanism that has you listening in order to respond. Don’t allow yourself to use the word “but” in these conversations. It’s easy to tell when political views are set in stone, and when they are, don’t try to change your friend’s point of view. If the subject is important to your values, express your opinion and let them search further if they want.
Stay away from imposing your beliefs on your friends. Don’t get caught up in trying to win the conversation. For example, if your friend on the opposite spectrum doesn’t like hunting, then don’t share the story of your latest hunting trip with them. If your friend is in favor of gun ownership, don’t wear your “Down with the NRA” T-shirt around them. This doesn’t mean you’re compromising your beliefs, it just means you’re being courteous.
In today’s online world we should also scrutinize our social media behavior. Don’t pound your friend’s Facebook feed with opposing political views, especially those that demean and insult those opposing views. If a friend happens to share something you don’t like, hide it from your feed and move on to those things that bolster the friendship.
It’s not always easy getting along with those who have opposite views. One great way to learn how to hang out with people who live life without focusing on opposing views is to visit a kindergarten class. Those children show us every day how to get along without reservation.
There are wonderful people in our community who want the best for everyone who lives here. If we avoid them because of opposing political views, then we’re missing out on having great relationships with great people.
Then the entire quad-city community misses out.