I’m friends with a conservative. She is a right-wing, republican voting, supporter of small government, pro-life, non-pacifist, all out conservative. She is also someone I genuinely respect and care for.
For me, being friends with a conservative is a big deal; it means that I have to listen, practice tolerance, and work to communicate.
I am a hardcore liberal. Pro-choice, LGBTQ ally, anti-military, liberal. I was raised on a liberation gospel and ingrained with values of economic equity. I am not afraid of the S word (Socialism), or even, God forbid it, the C word, (Communism), and I am not scared to be called Canadian either.
I am proud of the opinions and principals that I have formed through years of conversation and experience. If I choose to vote in the coming election, my ballot will not be either red or blue. It will be green.
Yet here I find myself, friends with someone who has completely opposite political convictions, someone who is against some of the programs that I hold closest to my heart. Yet, it is not just that I am tolerant of her beliefs and her choices; I have come to genuinely respect her for them. I never expected to find myself in this situation. So how did I get here?
One word: humility.
Humbling opportunities take place when we enter a situation with a certain set of assumptions and pay enough attention to the reality of the interaction to watch the assumptions fall apart under our feet.
I do not have a history of taking humbling experiences well.
I fight, I challenge, and I hold to the assumptions that I have come to believe in with a tight fist. I usually attribute my difficulty with humility to my natural capacity for passion. Sometimes I even deceive myself in to thinking it is a virtue by viewing it as strength of character and calling it conviction. All this simply means that I’m not very good at humility.
Over the past three years at EMU my convictions about social justice, nonviolence, political activism, and biblical based socialist economics, far from being shaken, have only been strengthened. However, I have also learned how to listen to people who think differently. I now try to understand where they are coming from, and what conclusions they have reached. I try to
reserve judgment. It has been a revelation for me to realize that holding convictions and engaging in humbling dialogue are not mutually exclusive. On the contrary, opposing opinions should and must exist in the same space.
In my first year, I took a class in which Christian Early described this exercise in reserving judgment while maintaining personal convictions as “engaging in a pluralistic conversation.” It is now, in my final year at EMU, that I am beginning to put it into practice.
Example: In one of our first conversations, my friend told me how people often assume she is not loving because of the political beliefs she holds. These comments are not only unfair, but they are often hurtful.
Her comment was right on the nail: I assumed people who voted Republican did not love. I swallowed my pride and assumptions, and allowed for the possibility that this amazing woman was just as loving as me – even if she voted against some of the issues that are important to the people I love. A humbling revelation.
The partisan rhetoric we hear around election time encourages us to hold tight to our assumptions. We are told that those who vote differently and who hold different convictions, are different. We are not encouraged to engage with “the other” from a place of humility.
Yet here I am, as far left as can be, friends with a conservative.
As I continue to get to know this friend, the assumptions I bring to activism, community living, social change, justice issues, faith, etc. are all being stretched and prodded. I don’t believe that this weakens my convictions, I think that it only makes them stronger and better rounded. I can be challenged and stay principled.
Our personal convictions have not changed – if we go to the polls on Nov. 6, I will still vote Green and she will still vote Republican – but I am beginning to see that those who believe differently than me are not evil, hateful, or ignorant.
They have simply taken in different experiences, messages, and goals and used these to reach different conclusions.
Bekah Enns, Contributing Writer