I worry about deep divisions in our country. Fox News, Rachel Maddow, Rush Limbaugh, and mean-spirited letters printed in our local papers only make matters worse.
A few weeks ago, I was reading a book while waiting in the Seattle airport for my flight home to Kalispell. Directly behind me – our backs were practically touching – a middle-aged man talked loudly with his traveling companions. “I hate Democrats. They are ruining our country. Why should I have to pay for health care? I don’t know anyone who voted for Obama. I can’t imagine ever being friends with anyone who calls themselves a Democrat and voted for that man!”
I sat up straight, put down my book, took a deep breath, and walked around to face him. “I voted for Obama. Do I look like a bad person? I bet we have more in common than you think. Maybe, we could even become friends.”
He glanced upward, “Nope, that’s impossible!”
I didn’t give in. “How can you say that when you don’t even know me? Besides, I love having conversations with my Republican friends. Our conversations help me be more tolerant and understanding of multiple points of view. After all, you and I are Montanans. I bet we have more in common than you think.”
His wife said, “Don’t bet on it.”
I sat down beside him, “OK what are three things you love?”
Turning his head slightly upward, he said “My church, my guns and my horses.”
“At least we agree on one thing – horses.”
For the next 15 minutes, we told horse stories. We talked about how we love to ride in the mountains, how he loves his quarter horses; how I love my Arabians; how we both spent our childhood racing our horses bareback across mountain meadows.
When our flight was called, I looked at him and said, “See it might be possible to become friends with a Democrat.”
“You might be right.” With that we shook hands and together walked to the plane.
We can build bridges one person at a time. We can change hate into tolerance.
Perhaps Congress could learn a lesson here. Anger and polarization undermine our brilliantly designed form of government. As citizens we can take this lesson into the political arena and vote for candidates who reach out to find connections rather than those just defending their own political agendas.
Carol M. Santa
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