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Toward a more perfect union

Bonnie Willis's picture

The grueling election season is finally over! And I must admit I am a bit surprised by the results.

Perhaps the only consensus one can gather from the results is that our nation is divided. Undoubtedly political scientists and pundits will continue to analyze the economic and political implications for the foreseeable future. But, I want to focus my comments here on some of the immediate personal and relational implications that I perceive.

I want to do this because I was very surprised by the strain the election process had on some relationships. I was amazed to receive emails and read Facebook posts from people on both sides of the aisle who said things that were vile about those from the opposing party.

These derogative comments were typically of the condescending nature, or hurling racial charges against one another.

I kept thinking, “Do you realize you are talking about your neighbors here?!” Just because someone supports a particular party doesn’t mean they are cold heartless people who don’t care about those who are marginalized. Neither does it mean they are mindless socialists who are simply trying to destroy the country.

Neither were my relationships with some of my friends immune to this phenomenon.

Personally, I noticed some people treated me differently once they learned I was a conservative thinker. Perhaps they assumed because I was female, and African American, I was “liberal,” or “progressive.”

Despite my outreach to show I was still the same person, I felt like they now looked at me as the enemy.

The result during the election season was that some friends simply avoided talking with me about politics altogether. Others challenged me on my viewpoints which typically insinuated political stereotypes. Regrettably, more than one acquaintance stopped talking with me all together.

When you live in a strongly Republican county like Fayette or a strongly Democrat borough like Manhattan (New York City) and your family and acquaintances all share your political beliefs, it is easy to believe the negative political stereotypes of the opposite side.

However, I truly believe that the vast majority of Americans, Democrats and Republicans, simply want to work hard, support their families and not have their values trampled upon.

While it may be more gratifying to rail against the other political party for the ills of our country. It is hardly constructive. Rather than looking at each other as a friend or foe, I would remind us (as I have in the past) that we are neighbors and fellow citizens.

It would probably be more beneficial for those of us who live in Fayette County and for our country as a whole to put oneself in the shoes of the people that you know that have different political views and try to walk a mile in them.

Ask yourself, or better yet, ask them directly, “Why do you hold the opposing political views that you do? What are your values? What do you desire for our country?”

Then by truly listening to their responses — rather than coming up with your counter-argument to substantiate your own viewpoint — could go a long way towards healing the political divide here in Fayette County and in our nation.

This does not mean that sincerely held differences will disappear overnight, but perhaps misconceived, ill-informed, and malicious rhetoric could begin to dissipate, and many relationships will begin to heal toward the establishment of stronger friendships, families, and country — a more perfect union.

[Bonnie B. Willis is co-founder of The Willis Group, LLC, a Learning, Development, and Life Coaching company here in Fayette County and lives in Fayetteville along with her husband and their five children.]

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