Can We Be Friends and Disagree Politically?

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Recently, I had the pleasure of visiting the home a prominent proponent of an educational program in which I am apart.

This gentleman had a lovely family and a very warm and inviting home. His wife and four children, three of which I met, were all very gracious and welcoming. Their home is located in a prime real estate area in Charlotte, situated near lush manicured lawns and other million dollar homes. Clearly, I was amazed by both the home and hospitality. I was treated to delectable hor’ dourves throughout the night, one of which was freshly smoked jumbo shrimp. I could taste the smoldering flame of barbecue with each bite. As I enjoyed my shrimp I was taken aback by the server standing patiently beside me as I chewed and talked. She was waiting for me to finish eating the meat off my shrimp so that she may collect the tail and disseminate more shrimp. I have been to numerous upscale events but never had such a personalized experience as that.

Throughout the night, the man of the house and I really hit it off well. We had a dynamic exchange on music. Finding that we both, despite a generational gap in age and difference of race, had plenty of commonalities. One of which was our fondness of the musical genius Marvin Gaye. He had personalized speakers strategically placed about the house, so as we toured his home we never missed any great music.

By the time dinner had begun, we were practically frat brothers. We broke bread and naturally continued our conversations of history and politics. Now, despite my dual degree in Political Science and Spanish, I rarely, if ever enjoy engaging in political commentary. It’s not for any reason of feeling inadequacy or shame for my political beliefs but solely based off my desire to maintain neutrality. I enjoy allowing other people to express their rights to freedom and believe as they may. I expect that they provide the same space. Thus, when talks of foreign affairs and domestic policies ensue, I usually digress from the conversation and politely decline to engage.

However, on the night of that dinner, I did not decline. In fact, I actually opened the conversation. I inquired the gentleman to share who his favorite president was.  He told men and I gulped, surprised by his reply. We then pinged-ponged back in forth over a few domestic policies. Generally, I felt as if we listened to understand rather than to judge. But more importantly, we were able to agree on the need for more students in urban communities to have access to quality education. In my former neighborhood of Englewood on Chicago’s South Side, the need for access to quality education is abundant. Ultimately, to bring about great change for our nation, people have to be enlightened to the opportunities for change. I hope as our friendship continues to develop, we will both  learn how to dispel fallacies and improve the living conditions of those in dire situations.

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