What’s Next (1): The Search For Allies

The quest for allies has to start now. Just like the marches and the knitting of hats and the making of signs, it need to happen in those same community centers and neighborhoods and church basements and coffee shops and workplaces and family dinner tables.

Here’s how it starts:

Conversations with people we don’t understand.

That’s right. You may have spent the weekend on the streets, and subways, and busses and planes, working up your energy in the company of people who demonstrated that they are ready to fight for the things you care about. That’s the easy part of finding common cause.

The harder part is to talk to people that didn’t march. That includes everyone from people who were ambivalent to people who tell you with deep emotion that they voted for Donald Trump.

Actually, that’s the third-hardest part. The second-hardest part is to let go of your assumptions about others. We need to find allies in places we don’t expect. We won’t find them by guessing others’ views.

The hardest thing of all is not to talk, but to LISTEN. Listen to understand, not to respond. Listen, and ask questions, and listen more, to seek common ground. You might have one, just one, issue where you agree. Maybe it’s not reproductive rights, but it is climate change.

Just because someone voted for Donald Trump, or even if all you know about her is that she didn’t march with you, doesn’t mean you should stop talking to her. It means you should start listening to her. First, if you don’t listen to her, she’s certainly not going to listen to YOU. Second, research shows that she’s much more likely to be receptive to hearing what you think and feel after you’ve given her the chance to be heard. Yelling at people and name-calling never changes their minds.

I will add this: I am fortunate not to be surrounded by family members or work colleagues who spew hate. I have read plenty of posts from people whose patience or hope for civil discussion is long gone. I admit I don’t have all the answers and I wish I did. We will find people and places in which there are no allies, where there is no apparent hope of unity on any issue. When that happens, we can move on. But I say to you, remember to circle back. We can oppose someone’s views but still love them. This is part of why love does win. Things can change even for one’s fiercest opponents. Today’s opponent may become tomorrow’s closest ally. But not if you’ve already declared them dead to you.

It’s vital not to let passion turn to hate. It’s no more right to call some illegal than it is to call them part of a “basket of deplorables.” We must not act out of the very hate that we profess to stand against. No matter what our views, we need to act and behave with civility.

FUTURE POST: understanding and practicing civility


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