Waking up on Nov. 3, 2020, I had my fingers crossed that the election would turn my way, having prayed to all the gods and wished on all the stars that Trump wouldn’t keep his presidency. But, I knew that my best friend was a few streets over wishing for the exact opposite.
I was okay with that.
Though we were both raised in similar environments, went to the same religious grade school, switched to public school in ninth grade, had good grades, were involved in similar clubs and sports and even had the same number of siblings around the same ages, we ended up on complete opposite ends of the political spectrum.
In the beginning, this revelation was hard for both of us. The media loves to pressure people to argue with others who have different beliefs and opinions. But when we actually ventured into the topic we both learned much more than previously imagined. When we were open and vulnerable with each other we were able to figure out the reasons behind why we supported each candidate. She wanted Trump to win because she really liked that he was a businessman and he worked hard on sustaining the economy. But I explained to her that I wanted Biden in office because Trump and his team worked against things that were important to me, like rights for the LGBTQIA+ community. But I did agree with her, Trump was able to keep the economy strong, and she agreed that she thought that LGBTQIA+ rights were important. We discussed these views, concluding that while we supported a candidate who had a certain set of beliefs it didn’t mean we supported everything they said and didn’t support anything the other candidate stands for.
The idea that we should only follow one candidate, agreeing with them wholeheartedly while completely opposing the other side is something pushed upon us as soon as we venture into the world of politics. Being able to admit when our candidate has made a choice we can’t agree with or when their opponent has said something we agree with is a trait that is much harder to come about in the political sphere, and that’s the fault of both parties. When someone wants to admit the other side is right, or their candidate is making a decision they don’t agree with, they get bullied into going back to their original stance or they are seen as “not a real Republican/Democrat” or a “traitor.” Thus, people avoid speaking up against their candidates and never agree with the other side of the aisle, therefore increasing party polarity overall.
Moreover, sometimes the reason someone opposes a certain view is that they don’t understand it, or they are scared about the possible implications. Because of this, I’ve learned that the key to helping people change their minds is using kind words and avoiding inflammation of high-tension situations or conversations. The media (especially social media) loves nothing more than to start arguments between people with different beliefs, but in reality, those arguments are dividing us even more.
Curing the deep-rooted polarity in politics requires kindness, understanding and patience with one another. Though it may sound like I wear a permanent pair of rose-colored glasses or operate under a general sense of naivety, I have actually opened myself up to a large number of civil discussions. Additionally, I have been able to educate others about the political and human rights topics I am passionate about. And this goes both ways; everyone has to be open to changing their beliefs – or at least learning about the opposing view – to actually be a productive member of the political sphere. We are humans and don’t know everything about every topic and never will, so sometimes our opinions will be wrong. We have to accept that.
Believe it or not, politics don’t have to take the forefront of a relationship. My best friend and I have so many other things to talk about, we are building a better friendship on so much more than our political parties. We see shows together, get our favorite Italian foods or go on late-night Dairy Queen adventures. Though political views sometimes come up in conversation, we are able to be calm and civilized, and with that, our friendship stays as strong as ever.