The recent midterm elections had a record-breaking voter turnout and sparked many heated discussions among communities around the country. At times when people are so passionate about politics, it is common for people to make generalizing assumptions about those with political ideologies that are different from them. We start to view them through a lens, and we are closed off to them.

But let’s say you meet someone who is kind, shares similar interests with you, and only after befriending them do you realize that your political views do not match up. It could be something they said regarding a news event, or a political post on social media, etc., that revealed their beliefs. How do you proceed with this friendship?

This can be a very perplexing situation, especially for those who see political beliefs as being closely correlated with a person’s morals and ethics. Often times it is difficult for us to understand how these seemingly benevolent people could have beliefs that are starkly different than ours. Especially since our country’s politics are so polarized now, we tend to just associate our party with good, and the other with evil.

Though we are much more comfortable surrounding ourselves with people who have similar mindsets as ours, we shouldn’t rule out befriending people just because of differing political views.

Perhaps you are able to look past your differences and appreciate them for their admirable qualities that make them a good friend. You could avoid having politics-related conversations, or if you do happen to talk about politics, remember to stay civil and focus on engaging in thoughtful dialogue instead of hurling insults.

We have to realize that human beings are complex, and our political views are shaped by numerous factors, including our families, our upbringing, and our unique life experiences. Instead of judging someone immediately for their party affiliation or who they support in an election, we should try to understand their point of view, and why they may think that way.

At the end of the day, we just want to see a more unified country. According to a recent study by More in Common, a non-profit dedicated to bridging political divides, 77 percent of Americans believe that these differences are not so great that we cannot come together.

Most Americans are exhausted from the constant onslaught of bitter hostilities between opposite ends of the political spectrum. We’re not going to see progress in our country if people with opposing political views continue to form separate tribes and increase political polarization. We need bipartisan friendships because we need to begin to listen to each other and find common ground.

We should look up to the unlikely friendship between Justice Ginsburg and the former Justice Scalia. Ginsburg, an icon among liberals, and Scalia, a conservative, were “best buddies,” they would end conflicts after a case was settled. Ginsburg and her husband would even spend celebrate every New Year’s Eve with Scalia and his wife. At Scalia’s funeral, Ginsburg said in her eulogy: “We were different, yes, in our interpretation of written text, yet one in our reverence for the Court and its place in the U.S. system of governance.”

Photo: John Hain

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