How to Talk to a Republican
18 Jan, 2017
I realize this morning that I can be so judgmental. Often times, I size people up in my head early on in a conversation, and, if I determine they are of x category or y disposition, I file them away in various subcategories under the broader phylum of “beneath me.” This sense of superiority keeps my identity afloat. If I didn’t have people I was better than, I think I would probably have to feel a lot of pain. And, also, it keeps me insulated and comfortable. If I’m better than you, than I don’t need to get messy in getting to know you, getting to understand you, getting to see you and deal with you as an equal. I can stay separate.
I notice this cropping up a lot in my daily life. I also notice it in the online realm of Facebook comments, political opinion, and the whole ‘fake news,’ thing. We aren’t getting to know each other. We are filing people into ‘us’ and ‘them.’ We even make (and believe) our own news to support it!
The problem with this is that it is a sign of the beginning or advanced stages of insanity.
Here’s what sanity looks like.
Upon realizing that I have deployed my superiority cloak against a person, I pause. I breathe. I realize what I have done. And then, instead of looking for evidence for or against that – instead of trying to either confirm (see? just another new ager.) or deny (oh, they are both a new-ager and a conservative. how balanced and interesting!) using the mind, I get curious. Maybe ask some questions. And the critical thing is I can’t come from a place of superiority when I do that. I can’t be like, OK, I think this person is a fucking idiot, but I’m going to show up in some kind of forced gesture of seeing them in their idiotness.
I am going to drop all that and start at square one.
Who are you? What makes you human? What makes you alive, excited, afraid, nervous, energized? What breaks you open? What makes you like me? What makes you different?
If I am willing to adopt the kind of open attitude of willingness to take in that reality – and it can be, and frequently is, communicated non-verbally – then I make myself available to be affected by them. I make myself available to truly see them. Which means, if I’m doing it non-superiorally or as some kind of weird favor but as a matter of aliveness and vulnerability and courage, then they are going to see /me/. Oh boy. Yikes. And instead of me affirming their humanity, if I drop all that, I may get /my/ humanity affirmed. Wow.
We are all just walking each other home. But the skill and courage to take the first steps in that journey – every day – are not common, nor are they obvious, because they require letting go of the identity of ground and pain we think we so abhor, but actually deeply cherish, like Gollum holding onto the ring.