Understanding across political differences

September 24, 2018

Foster Hurley’s My View (“Two brothers, two realities,” Sept. 9) was tragic. In his words we can see the pain he feels about his differences with his brother, as well as the cause of that pain. He rightly decries the “two visions and versions of reality that have eviscerated our country, our states, our families and friends,” but then launches directly into eviscerating his own brother’s beliefs in a way that brooks no dissent, allows no room for tolerance and allows for no respectful debate.

How tragic that his own brother is his “enemy” with whom he shares only a surname. Can they not celebrate their shared heritage, family, education, careers and military service without going directly into the minefield of political differences? Hurley acknowledges that their political feud is unwinnable; so why allow it to metastasize into the defining feature of their relationship?

We are rapidly changing to a country in which Democrats and Republicans live in different towns, shop in different stores, eat in different restaurants, watch different TV shows, wear different athletic shoes and, most alarmingly, believe different facts. The resulting ideological disunion is a far more critical threat to the American experiment than is disagreement about any single policy issue or elected official. We need to take a collective step back from the precipice and reset our public dialogue before we as a country suffer the same consequences as Hurley and his brother.

This requires us all to set aside our arrogant rectitude, our outrage and our confirmation bias. This requires us to acknowledge that our positions may not always be the “unvarnished truth” and our opponents’ not ipso facto “delusional dogma.”

If I force myself to open my eyes and look around, I recognize that members of other parties share the same goals I hold dear as a citizen and parent. We all want our kids to be safe and healthy. We all want better education options for them now and better job options for them in the future. We all want to see the quality of life that keeps our children here when they grow up. The desire for peace, prosperity and happiness are universal.

Starting today, I am opting out of the constant, corrosive, divisive and ultimately pointless partisan political discussions. I don’t know yet if I can be part of the solution, but I am going to stop being part of the problem. I will still work for causes I believe in. I will vote for candidates who support those causes. I won’t shirk from calling out deception, corruption, cronyism and attempts to tilt the playing field. I will continue to speak up against the worst of human nature.

I will also remove my partisan lens and attempt to understand the true intentions, desires and concerns of those with whom I have superficial differences. I will take the time to explore the motivations behind positions with which I disagree to see if there are common roots from which we can build solutions. I will stop treating my solemn duty of civic engagement as a toxic combination of team sport and blood feud.

When was the last time you had lunch with someone from a different political party?

Chris Graeser is a lawyer in private practice in Santa Fe.

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