Live · Think

On Partisan Divides, The Supreme Court, and Friendship

My sister says I’m a robot. Obviously, I’m not. But I am NOT usually a crier, except for these things:

  1. Babies being born (every time y’all, even if it’s Rachel Green’s super fake, effortless, breach delivery).
  2. Baptisms. I don’t know. Doesn’t have to be anyone I know…but I’m a mess.
  3. The Hallelujah Chorus
  4. The Family Stone (big ugly crying over here, people, and preferably with NO ONE AROUND).
  5. The end of (shockingly) several children’s books-I’m looking at you, Knuffle Bunny Free (my kids are over it, by the way, and believe me to be a giant sap, which I am not, obviously).
  6. CBS Sunday Morning (every week, something).

And that’s what we’re here to chat about. Last week, Sunday October 1, preceding the awful events that transpired that evening, Sunday Morning ran this piece about Justice Antonin Scalia and Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.  They spoke first about Justice Scalia’s newly published book of speeches, and his originalist view of the Constitution, of his sense of humor, and his family.

Then they interviewed Justice Ginsburg. Perhaps, his foremost political opposite, Ginsburg said of him, “It’s good to have someone who is super intelligent and is able to explain his point of view. It makes you think harder.”

His widow interjected, “And he felt the same way, it was really important.”

Mutual improvement society: that’s what they called one another. Two colleagues, committed to different ideals, joined by respect and a decades long friendship.

And that’s when I cried.

When I was in college in the late 1990s, I was one of the only professing Christians in my group of friends and even my department, most of whom were either agnostic or former Catholics, disenchanted by the Church and maybe even God.  To top it all, at the time I was also a raging Republican (I’ve since softened to a more moderate view,  but still far from either end of the spectrum). As you might imagine, they were all liberal leaning.

And you know what, we didn’t “co-exist” or “tolerate” one another, because those two terms are so shallow. We actually loved one another. We had a lot of fun together, and made hilarious memories. But we also respected one another. We talked about real issues, late into the night, and maybe we didn’t agree, but there was genuine acceptance and admiration for one another.

Earlier in the piece above, Scalia was quoted as saying, “I attack ideas not people.”

Now we just seem to attack people.

What has thrown us down the partisan chasm we seem to be drowning in? I’m not sure.

Perhaps, laziness? Unwillingness to converse with actual people when it’s easier to talk to the universe and be refuted only by the idiotic words of our online adversaries (i.e. our former real life friends)?

Perhaps, lack of restraint? Why hold my tongue when I’ve been offended?

Perhaps, stupidity? Is the internet making us dumber? Are we all in echo chambers of our own makings?

Maybe…pride wrapped up with a healthy dose of bigotry.

Wait? What? Bigotry? Isn’t that a term we save for ‘Merica bandana wearing, old pickup driving, rebel flag wavers?

The Merriam Webster Dictionary defines it as such, “obstinate or intolerant devotion to one’s own opinions and prejudices :the state of mind of a bigot.”

Hmmmm. That feels like a lot of us, in 2017, with our minds open to a few, but not to all. It’s different for everyone…who you choose to love and who you choose to hate. But gosh, we’re all a bunch of bigots, lately, aren’t we?

About two years ago, after the attack in Paris, I was reeling. We all were, right? I was heartbroken for the city of Paris, confused about what’s happening to our world, not a little fearful, and devastated over the refugee crisis. I was perusing Facebook, when I noticed a militant post by a girl I didn’t know well. She said some stuff about the election and refugees, and then she fear mongered a bit. I didn’t like it. And it made my blood boil. And you know what I did? I hit unfriend. But instead of attacking her idea, which quite frankly, I should have done by ignoring her, because Facebook dialogue is usually pretty ineffective (I know, because sometimes I’m still guilty of it), I decided to attack her by erasing her completely. And it felt good to have that power.  And she became the poster child to me for hatred and fear; her face as a person, not just her idea.

But the thing is, I don’t know her. And I don’t know if she struggles with fear or lack or restraint. But maybe, (not likely, I know, but I’ve got a sick case of idealism), she could’ve seen something I said, or another friend, and she would’ve thought differently? Probably not, but maybe. Maybe cutting her out wasn’t the right move, just because I felt offended by her. Just because I decided she wasn’t worthy of grace.

There are lots of ways to be different: cutlurally, religiously, politically, preferentially.

But whether those differences are neutral, better or worse, or immature is often entirely subjective.

When we unfriend people because they hold different beliefs than we do, we need to check our own bigotry at the door. We need to understand that maybe they can learn from us, or we can learn from them. Or even that they’ll help us to better articulate our own values. Or maybe, despite belief systems, we may have been good friends.

There is value to disagreement, as RBG said. It makes us think harder.

As Scalia said, it’s ok to attack ideas, because sometimes we deem them stupid, but we can’t attack people.

The partisan gap is higher than it’s been in decades, at 36%, and 44-45% of both parties express antipathy toward the other.

To this I say, we are NOT our parties.  We are not our ballots. And while some feel they are represented by them, “we the people” are often discarded for election campaigns and big money.  Political parties do not breathe, and move, and love, and cherish us the way only humans can do. They are just a means to an ends…hopefully an effective one, but not always.

I cried at that interview with Justice Ginsburg and Justice Scalia’s widow, because those two women, love one another. And they are sad about the state of disdain brewing in 2017. I bet if they saw our social media feeds they’d shake their heads in disapproval.

We are all on journeys. Some of us are too pliable, with not enough conviction. Some of us are too dug in, unwilling to even listen to someone else’s point of view without becoming enraged.

But if we can find a middle ground, you know what it looks like? It looks like respect.  It looks like 1999, before the demise of our civility, in the little yellow kitchen of my first apartment, with my awesome roommates, and hummus and crackers and wine, thought-provoking conversation, and some hearty laughter. It looks like a Mutual Improvement Society.





4 thoughts on “On Partisan Divides, The Supreme Court, and Friendship

  1. Good post Spindalah!

    “at the time I was also a raging Republican (I’ve since softened to a more moderate view, but still far from either end of the spectrum)…”

    Why?!? Go back there. Start raging again! It’s good for you… and the GOP.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.