Mutual Respect

My sister is a conservative. I am a liberal. It’s safe to say that on almost any political issue, we are on opposite sides of the fence. And yet we respect each other’s views and love each other dearly—the fact that we disagree on major issues is irrelevant.

And when my sister tells me that as a conservative and a Christian, she feels bullied by liberals, I believe her. Because unfortunately, I have seen liberals take the approach of demonizing all conservatives and painting them to be racist, misogynistic, uneducated people. And every time I see that happen, I cringe. I want to say, “Don’t you see that you’re doing exactly what you hate? Exactly what you get frustrated about when it’s done to you? Don’t you see that you’re being part of the problem, rather than making anything better?”

But I also know many, many liberals who feel like I do: We may not agree with conservative policies or choices, but we respect that in a democracy, everyone is entitled to their views, and even if someone disagrees with us, they are likely a good person at heart who actually probably has some similar overarching goals to ours.

And similarly, I know both kinds of conservatives. I know the conservatives like my sister, who don’t agree with the same things I do but who say, “That’s okay; we don’t have to agree in order to respect each other’s views and feelings.” And I know conservatives who throw stones at “liberal idiots,” “snowflakes,” “bleeding hearts,” and my personal least favorite, “libtards.”

In fact, I spent this morning arguing with one, which probably wasn’t the best use of my time. In the interest of privacy, I won’t screenshot the conversation, but instead I’ll retype it here:

Friend-of-a-friend on Facebook: I just laugh at liberals now.

My response: See, that kind of comment is hurtful. I’m a liberal (proud to be), and I don’t support anyone speaking of blowing up the White House. I also respect the pro-life movement, even if I’m not part of it. And I support everyone’s right to support the candidate they choose. Making a blanket statement like this about liberals is just downright mean. Just as it would be if I said, “I just laugh at conservatives now.” It really, really bothers me this tendency of BOTH sides to make blanket statements about the other. Personally, I think that’s where the hate in our nation comes from—people just forming blanket beliefs about others and making generalizations.

This exchange went on for a while, with me sticking to my point that it doesn’t help anything and is in fact unfair to make broad generalizations, and her just repeating things like, “I’m still laughing at you” and “I’m sorry you identify with that group. Good luck in your life.” Honestly, she was pretty hateful, and I will say that quite a few conservatives and liberals came to my defense and agreed that her making gross generalizations about a group was shortsighted and rather hateful.

At some point I gave up, because what was the point? The woman was obviously never going to admit that name-calling isn’t really a useful way to approach people.

But really, it was kind of the straw that broke the camel’s back for me. Yesterday was the Million Woman March, taking place all around the world. Many of my friends are liberals, so you can imagine that I had a lot of friends attending. My conservative friends remained mostly quiet on social media about it, hopefully because they respected that even though this isn’t their battle or platform, everyone has a right to peacefully protest. I did, however, see a fair number of people (mostly friends of friends—not friends of mine) bashing people who attended the marches as being “snowflakes” and “sore losers” and characterizing all protesters as being there to protest the president.

That’s frustrating, because I’ll tell you what: Not a single person I know who attended did so to protest Trump. I’m sure there were plenty of people there protesting Trump. But in all of the many people I know who attended, not one was there to protest Trump. Rather, they were there to stand up for specific things that are important to them that they fear may be lost in the next four years. My black friends were there to stand up for civil rights. My LGBTQ friends were there to support their right to be and remain married by law. My friends in the disability community were there to protest proposed changes that may negatively impact the disability community. And my pro-choice friends were there to support the laws in place to protect a woman’s right to choose.

To be honest, I wanted to go. I didn’t, for several reasons mostly involving parking and crowds—I don’t like being in crowds very much, and parking was going to be a nightmare. But if I had gone, my reasons for going wouldn’t have been to protest the president. Rather, I would’ve been there to support disability rights, because certain proposed policy changes could really create problems for my son and others with disabilities. Notably, the proposed education reform is something I’ve spoken on several times in this blog—it terrifies me. And the ACA repeal frightens me because of what it means for people with preexisting conditions. Down syndrome is a preexisting condition. If ACA is dismantled with no plan implemented that requires people with preexisting conditions be guaranteed affordable coverage, it will be disaster for so many of my friends who have kids with Down syndrome (or another disability that is considered a preexisting condition). Right now we have coverage through Chris’s job, so we will be okay. But what if Chris’s job disappears for some reason? Suddenly Sam would be without insurance coverage. Theo might, too, if they decide to classify autism as a preexisting condition. I will be too, because mitral valve prolapse is a preexisting condition, even though it’s so mild and so common that the medical community thinks 5 to 7 percent of the population walks around with it without even realizing it.

So I would’ve been there marching for that—as a reminder that disability rights need to be kept in mind when sweeping changes are made. And on a personal level, I would’ve been there to regain some sense of my own power. I am still shaken by the fact that we elected a president who admitted on camera to touching women without their consent. To me, that essentially normalized a situation that should never happen, and it dismisses the experiences of me and any other woman who has ever been sexually assaulted in any way. I already had a fragile trust in men, and I find that fragile trust even thinner and more brittle since November. If that makes me a snowflake, so be it. I’ve been told (by a conservative) that she was okay voting for Trump because “her background doesn’t define her.” I respect that. I’m glad her background doesn’t define her. Unfortunately, at this point in my life, mine very much affects me. I have barely slept a full night in 30 years. I have recurring nightmares. I admittedly have problems with trust. While I wouldn’t say my background defines me, I would say that it affects me fairly significantly.

And so, I would’ve been marching to try to regain some sense of self that has been fractured since November. Since America said it’s okay to touch women without consent—you can still be elected to the most esteemed position in the nation.

You see, this march would’ve been about me and my children’s rights, and the rights of their peers. It wouldn’t have been about Trump, and I don’t think it was about Trump for a great many of the people who organized. It was about staying true to oneself in a climate that may not be terribly friendly in the next four years.

But circling back to my original point: name-calling on both sides. People who are lumping every liberal under the umbrella of “liberal agenda” are not opening a channel for meaningful dialogue and mutual support, any more than people who lump every conservative under the umbrella of “conservative agenda” are.

I want people to stop seeing me as some sort of “snowflake” who supports every liberal statement ever made. I do not support Madonna saying she’d thought about “blowing up the White House.” And I may get crucified by the disability community for saying this, but I did not think Meryl Streep’s recent speech at an awards show was the end all, be all—I agreed with parts of it but thought it missed the mark in some big ways.

But I won’t apologize for supporting disability rights, minority rights, LGBTQ rights, overall civil rights, and various other aspects of the liberal agenda. If I have a religion, it is kindness, and many of these things I feel strongly about fall under the umbrella of basic human kindness.

In exchange, I vow to continue not lumping all conservatives under some umbrella that says they’re all racists, misogynists, uneducated, or whatever else is said about them in a broad overgeneralization. I vow to continue considering each person as an individual, with individual beliefs that are important to them.

I truly do think that if we drop the name-calling and finger-pointing, we can find that even if our specific agendas differ vastly, underneath it we have some of the same core beliefs and wishes.


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