Once upon a time, you would have found me glued to my phone, furiously typing out a response for one of the several political threads I was juggling on Facebook. Most of my timeline was either news stories or commentary on those stories. Many of those posts had as many as 300 comments a piece.
Now, it’s been over a year and a half since I’ve allowed myself to start any fires. Every once in a while, those posts will pop up in my memories. And when they do, I get a migraine almost immediately.
You might think that I got jaded.
I saw the futility of political discourse and decided to move hard in the opposite direction. And to be honest, that’s not completely untrue. Somewhere along the line, I got tired of explaining to people that empathy was a good thing, or that your political worldview doesn’t allow you to ignore proven statistics.
And a society that’s increasingly divided, it’s gotten to the point where we aren’t even hearing about the same news stories. Each side has their own narrative, and if I were to have an effective discussion with someone, I would need to peel back five or six layers of media spin to even start to have a conversation.
But that wasn’t the main issue.
I saw what it was doing to my relationships.
My cousin and I are pretty close in age. We grew up in the same town and were raised my siblings. But somehow, our political ideologies are worlds apart.
But we do have one thing in common: we both need to have the last word. And so across all of these political posts, he was my most frequent sparring partner. There was nothing we couldn’t argue about. I could say something about an effort towards protecting the ocean, and he would counter with something about how Al Gore inflated certain numbers in An Inconvenient Truth so why are we bothering ourselves with cleaning the ocean at all?
It got to the point where every time I saw his name come across my notifications, I would immediately get exasperated.
One day, I realized that exasperation was not a feeling I wanted attached to someone I loved. But I had let my relentless pursuit for political purity throw a wedge between myself and family and friends.
Because despite the damage I might think their policies of choice would bring to the world, at the bottom of my heart, I know that they actually don’t actually want that damage. As best they can figure, those policies are actually the most just options, no matter how wrong I might think they are.
And as far as I’m concerned, people are the most important thing.
It’d be nice if our public policy was informed by kindness, empathy, and justice for all persons. And don’t get me wrong—policy is extremely important. And I will continue to fight for those things.
But if we don’t treat eachother the same way, what’s the point?