Talking to a conservative friend: How to tackle hard issues without ruining relationships
In our tumultuous time, I’ve seen hypocrisy and hysteria from people across the political spectrum. It doesn’t belong to only one party or one type of people.
What this moment calls for is humility. Humility in admitting that we don’t know everything. Humility in acknowledging that we don’t have all the answers. But together, we might.
I posted what I thought was a non-controversial message Feb. 12 on Facebook when the U.S. Senate unanimously awarded the Congressional Gold Medal to Officer Eugene Goodman. My post read: “I’m grateful for the Capitol Police. Their bravery prevented a coup.”
The comments I received from my real-life friends who voted for Donald Trump were swift. “What is your definition of a coup?” one asked. Another friend, Julie, commented, “Oh. No. We disagree. The Portland and Seattle rioters for months were better armed. Let’s get a grip. That’s insane. Hugs!”
Call me crazy, but I really want to understand why so many people who voted for Trump, including my friends, equate the 2020 summer “riots” with what happened on Jan. 6. One was an outcry against abuse by the police; the other was an attempt by a small group of Trump supporters to topple the U.S. government.
Nonviolent engagement through conversations, community organizing, and neighbor to neighbor friendliness is how we walk forward together. (Photo: Getty Images)
In my mind, there is no comparison. One is moral and the other deluded. When I called the comparison a false equivalency, this was my friend’s reply:
Julie: “If Republicans were seriously going to take over, they would have brought, I don’t know, a gun? The riots and looting across America were well planned, well executed and encouraged.” (I have to confess she made me laugh, but then, I didn’t think it was “Republicans” who were trying to topple Congress. I thought the insurrectionists on Jan. 6 were white nationalists — who are not a laughing matter.)
Friends’ opinions can be frustrating
You could say I find my conservative friends vexing. Or that I find my progressive friends annoyingly self-righteous. In other words, I am bothered by the accusations of everyone about our fellow Americans. I hear the denigration in their tone, as they point to hysteria and hypocrisy of the “other.”
My conservative friend Julie has graciously agreed to share part of our private conversation.
Me: “Hey you. You like to compare the summer protests to the D.C. event. This article titled, ‘Look For Intent When Comparing The Capitol Mob To Black Lives Matter, Historian Says,’ outlines my thinking about it. How does it land for you? I feel like we are talking past each other. And I’d like to read something that resonates with you. Thanks.”
Julie: “We can start with one huge misunderstanding. Most Republicans don’t believe the BLM ‘protests’ were the problem. It was the rioting by Antifa and socialists/communists. Mostly white, on the back of the BLM movement. Basically. In the greatest display of white privilege I have ever seen, they jumped on the back of one of the most agreed upon messages in the past decade and destroyed it with their shenanigans. Also, the rioters were not BLM protestors. Everyone knows this… “
She went on to describe how Democrats are taking the opportunity to bash Republicans as racist before she drops in this:
Julie: “Rep(ublican)s aren’t saying there is a ‘comparison.’ They are laying out a clear and prevalent hypocrisy.”
She then writes that Republicans are called racist no matter what they do. We have a couple of exchanges where I’m minimally responsive, expressing empathy (I think), and then she writes:
Julie: “We are just sick of the hysteria that ensues when a couple of idiots do something phenomenally against our (Republican) principles. And the result is mass hysterical screaming from the left that they are big victims of this massive uprising by 74 million Trump supporters. I think what is being missed is this feeling that Republicans have every time we so much as utter ‘hello.’ (Then) there is mass hysteria about our unrealized privilege and our unbelievable ignorance. It really has gotten to that point.”
I kept my comments to a minimum and Julie continues on her rant. We continued our exchange for nearly an hour, then picked it up again the next day. Meanwhile, on the public thread, she drops this in:
Julie: “The Rep(ublican) position is, ‘Why do we have to take some hysterical people seriously, and we did, and Democrats can continue to incite violence in the name of protests.”
Violence against conservatives?
Others piled on the public thread, sharing links about the shooter at the congressional baseball practice game, anarchist signs, the harassment of GOP lawmakers exiting the White House, and of course, Kathy Griffin.
Committed to keep talking
By this time, it’s late at night. I was triggered. Julie was ranting. And in the end, all we could agree on was to keep texting and talking.
The next day Julie finished with this private comment:
Julie: “I think we are both thinkers. But I think (what) you are feeling from me and other Republicans (is) the rage that had been there for 30 years. Not 4 years. 30 years. 30 years of being silent. 30 years of being the ‘silent majority.’ 30 years of not being allowed to speak because we are automatically dismissed as racist or whatever. Forgive us if we speak up. Once.”
To reiterate, I’ve seen hypocrisy and hysteria from people across the political spectrum. Please offer each other your humility. And honor their human dignity.
Yes, Julie and I are still talking, and I’m still vexed. But I’m not giving up.
Our national aspirations of “liberty and justice for all” are precious. We have agreed that violence is not our path. Nonviolent engagement through conversations, community organizing, and neighbor to neighbor friendliness is how we walk forward together.
Debilyn Molineaux co-founded and is CEO of the Bridge Alliance. She also co-founded the National Conversation Project and Living Room Conversations.
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