let’s learn from history together.

Dear conservative friends,

Don’t worry. This isn’t one of those posts where I’m going to tell you that you’re all wrong and that you need to think like me or change all of your opinions and beliefs. I do have arguments for you and I will write more on those things later, but that’s not what this post is about.

This is about learning from history. Specifically, about learning from my past 8 years of living as a progressive with a decently progressive President in the White House. History is simply a construct, right? It’s not actually what happened, but it’s what we tell ourselves about what happened. So, here’s me making sense of a few things by telling myself a story about the past and making some recommendations about what maybe you (and we) can do now and into the future.

First lesson: I didn’t do enough to make my voice heard. I became complacent and thought that everything was going decently great. I (mostly) ignored the things that were happening in the White House and Congress. I called my representatives maybe once a year, when something that was REALLY important to me was going on. I did some things, for sure. I voted for Jill Stein in 2012, because I was frustrated with President Obama not being progressive enough. I went to college and learned and my mind changed a lot on a number of things. But I wasn’t as tapped into what was going on in my community as I could’ve been. I let myself think that my voice wasn’t necessary — other people were saying the things — so I could take it easy for a bit.

DON’T BE FOOLED LIKE I WAS.

If you voted for Trump, but maybe didn’t think his ideas about refugees were great, WE NEED YOU TO SPEAK UP.

If you’re a lifelong Republican and you’re fully pro-life, fine. But maybe because you’re pro-life, you’re against torture. WE NEED YOU TO SPEAK UP.

If you’re all about that capitalism, okay. But maybe you see a problem with the exploitation of workers and think people should be paid a living wage for their work. SAY THOSE THINGS.

With that comes my second lesson: I get that you’re a complicated, nuanced individual. I know that none of us ever agrees 100% with our elected officials. I definitely wasn’t on board with President Obama using drones to perpetrate warfare, but I didn’t call my representatives in congress about that. But you…you have the opportunity to call the White House and say, hey, hey you, I voted for you, and I’m not on board with such and such. You don’t have to agree with everything that Trump does just because you voted for him. I get that. You made a decision on November 8th, just like I did. But we’re all responsible now for what happens. We don’t just make one decision every four years and then leave things in the hands of those we elected. As a nuanced, complicated individual, you have the opportunity to make your complexities known to our leaders.

Third lesson: I didn’t talk enough to the people that I love that have different ideas than I do. Yes, I got into some intense conversations on Facebook (okay, okay, maybe more than “some”), but when it came to really listening and speaking my truth in those hard conversations (especially in person), I could’ve done better. I waited until after this election to talk to my parents about the big issues that we were all basing our decisions on. I’m not saying that I think I could’ve changed their minds or that they could’ve changed mine. But by leaving silence between us, I allowed assumption to replace understanding. By making the decision not to talk, I made the decision not to pursue openness and the finding of common space.

Fourth lesson: deciding not to work with people who are different than you, who you might even find deplorable, gets us to this place of division, authoritarianism, and a complete distrust of one another. I don’t know if I’ve learned this lesson yet or have integrated it into my life even a little bit. But it’s there. And I’m speaking it to you and me both. I want to come to that place where we can find things to agree on, things to fight for together. Maybe it’s this wall. Maybe you don’t want that thing either…let’s talk. Let’s figure out how to fight that together.

I’m probably going to get a lot of flak from some of my progressive friends saying, nope, we don’t work with racists and Islamophobes or homophobes. And that’s fine. Maybe that’s not their work to do right now. We’ve all got different work to do. But I think part of my work is learning from my past (even my very recent past) around this subject. I want to find ways to work with you. What can we agree on?

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