I had a great visit with my friend Charlene Burke. Charlene is a Republican and I’m a Democrat, but we’re proof positive that people of good will and strong convictions can speak candidly about things they feel strongly about and actually communicate. We might or might not change our decisions about this or that, but only by listening with open minds can we make choices that are rational and not automatic. If I only listen to people who already share my position, how do I KNOW what “they”–people who don’t share my position–are thinking? Charlene did me the honor of opening her heart and mind to me a bit and telling me WHY she supported such-and-such a position and WHY she was leery of this-and-that program. She also did me the honor of listening to MY takes on those subjects. As I said, we may neither of us change our opinions, but at least now we have a better idea of WHY we each hold the views we do.

One thing that I found very interesting is that she said that she, as part of a military family, had to learn to be independent and self-reliant, to reach out to those in need but to rely for strength and support on her immediate family. Since they moved around a lot, the immediate family was the only constant and the environment outside the immediate family was always changing and (my words here) potentially unpleasant or even threatening. I, on the other hand, grew up poor and in the network of an extended family of aunts, uncles, cousins, distantly related people who still considered one another close kin. We had hand-me-down clothes the way other people have heirlooms, that passed down, across, over, back and through generations. If one of us (and just about anybody qualified as “one of us”) was in need, the others pitched in and helped out.

Now, I’m fairly sure, now that my talk with Charlene has made me analyze it, that this is probably a big part of why progressive liberal programs make so much sense to me–in my world, that’s how things are done: nobody goes without. Those with plenty share with those with nothing. Having a surplus is only great because it gives you something to share with somebody who has a deficit. I know a lot of Republicans who feel the same way, except that they feel government programs force them to do something they want to do voluntarily; I feel that government programs are things that I *do* voluntarily by supporting candidates who support those programs.

Anyway, I’m really really grateful to have Charlene as a friend, because we can talk about these things within the safety of our friendship. I think most people of good will want the same thing; we just have different notions of the best way to achieve those things. I also think we have to TALK together before we can WORK productively together.


Writing prompt: The old two-characters-trapped-in-an-elevator bit is done so often on TV because it’s… well, for one thing, because it’s cheap to produce… but also because it’s an efficient way to force two unlike characters to communicate and learn about one another. So do it. Take your two characters most unlikely to spend more than three seconds together and put them in a situation in which they MUST communicate/cooperate.