Modern Dilemma

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There’s nothing more surprising, or disconcerting, than discovering a good friend or family member—someone you’ve always seen eye to eye with—has completely different views to you. What do you do when you discover that someone you’ve always respected now has opinions that you do not agree with, or even worse find morally wrong?

For example, in this precise moment of the zeitgeist, people all over America (and beyond!) are discovering that someone they love, and thought they knew, is an ardent Trump supporter, while the rest of the family are wondering whether to vote Hilary or Bernie.

These sudden strangers in our midst say that they like Trump’s position on trade, that he’s a straight-talker. They skirt around his obvious misogynist statements, his views on “punishing” women who have abortions, his quickness to backtrack and contradict himself.  And not only that, he also seems to be giving voice to hateful opinions your nearest and dearest say they have long held, but been afraid to say out loud.

It is a fact that politics has become more polarised than ever, and it has now entered our homes and has left many wondering what to do and say. Do differing political stances mean you can no longer be close?

This month’s guest writer, Erinbell Fanore, answers this moral dilemma, and urges us to make space for complexity in our lives.

With the elections going on, a lot of core beliefs and views are being stirred up. Polarised views are being voiced loudly. These opinions of how life should be are hurtful, even frightening, to some, and give strength and courage to others. Political debates from both aisles are putting up borders between people. We are good and you are bad. We are right and you are wrong. But our relationships to our thoughts are far more complex than that.

As people, we are multifaceted. We are an amalgamation of different parts: brave, skeptical, scared, happy, curious, angry parts. At times these parts of ourselves can feel differently about similar circumstances and even hold opposing views. On top of that, we are in constant flux. We are changing with every meal, season, book we read, political debate we hear, conversation we have. We are a collection of thoughts and feelings that are in constant chemistry with one another.

Because of our inner diversity and flux, it is not surprising we diverge from people we thought we saw eye to eye with. Most likely we still do agree on many or some subjects, but not all.

Trump with his arrogance and showmanship is saying things that people are secretly brooding about. People like him because he touches the fears in them and offers solutions to these fears in a spirit of a collective fight. Trump is not making up racism or misogyny. They exist. Many people are afraid and hope that the solutions offered by Trump will solve their inner and outer fears.

Maybe people are relieved to no longer have to be politically correct anymore. I grew up in Canada: a multi-cultural country. A welcoming country of inclusion. We were taught wonderful things. I am extremely thankful for the well-rounded education I received. But sometimes it got a bit too much. We were taught about not littering, turning off our taps and about multi-culturalism and integration. We were taught it over and over again. I remember in Grade 11 or 12 being so fed up with all the assemblies full of good, positive messages. ‘I get it,’ I boiled inside. ‘Now leave me alone!’ What I wasn’t taught was what to do with all these thoughts and feelings that are not PC? What do I do with these energies?

Maybe people feel relieved that their long-held views, ones they were afraid of voicing, are at last being offered a platform. The suppression of these unpleasant thoughts didn’t diminish or extinguish them, in fact they grew in intensity. Many people see their world in danger. They see the dream they had for a stable future slipping away and this scares them. People are deeply afraid of not having enough. People are afraid of not having a home. Telling people they are wrong to be scared is pointless. The fear is real. It is one part, but not all of them.

Instead of feeding the fight with counter arguments, what about making space for the fear? Not only other people’s fears, but the fear in ourselves. What are we really scared of? Are we courageous enough to look at our own prejudices and dislikes? At our own moral high ground and tightly-held beliefs?

Instead of ignoring or rejecting when we dislike something someone says, try to lean into it. Try to really hear what is being thought and felt. Then think it over in a spirit of genuine curiosity.

This does not mean not holding an opinion. No! Stand firm in what you believe in. Openly voice your views. But don’t throw hate into the mix. Don’t close down your blinders and become fixated on thinking you are right and others are wrong. Allow room for complexity. Allow room for other people’s opinions. Ignoring or suppressing their voice won’t make the issues disappear, rather it will escalate them.

Do differing political stances mean you can no longer be close? Not at all. What is important is to remember that the other person is not you. Their political views that you fundamentally disagree with are theirs and not yours. They are also entitled to hold them no matter what you feel about them.

We are all so different that it would be impossible for us to agree on everything. What is unhelpful is saying to others that they are bad for how they feel and think. I don’t know anyone I 100% agree with, not even my husband. I have very dear people in my life who hold opposite views about politics and religion to me. I disagree with them but I cherish their kind and warm qualities. I choose to connect with those.

We are more than just our political views. If you aren’t able to talk politics with your loved one without it ending in bitterness, then leave those talks off. Allow there to be difference between you. There is so much more to each of us. Connect on other levels. Then go off and stand up for what you believe in.

Erinbell Fanore was born and raised in Vancouver, Canada.  She holds a Bachelors of Theatre from York University (Toronto), Canada and a Masters of Theatre from University College Cork, Ireland. Erinbell is also a 500 hours Yoga Alliance certified yoga teacher.  She has been teaching yoga and mediation full time since 2007 and continues to write and direct.