Connecting through differences
"There will be no talking about politics." my father told me when we talked about Thanksgiving plans last week.
"If it starts," he said, "I'm walking away from the table."
I had gotten this warning before, and I admit, had paid it no mind.
Carefully, respectfully, I and my father's brother-in-law had indeed, talked about politics at the holiday table in years past. We had talked about how he disliked (I'm being kind) then President Obama, about deep state, and how much good he thought President Trump would bring.
When he arrived at the door, he received the same admonishment from his sister-in-law. "There will be no talking about politics. If it starts, I'm leaving the table."
"What's the fun in that?" he replied as he hugged hello.
Later, as the two of us sat at the table waiting for dinner to be served, I slid over to sit next to him and stuck out my hand.
"Hey," I said, "We're not allowed to talk about politics. Too bad, I always enjoy it. I think we do pretty well."
"Yeah," he said, "too bad."
The holiday conversation was congenial: about grandchildren, mushroom growing, how hard it is to make a living in rural Vermont. I missed his take on how he saw the world now. What he might have thought about any of the national politics going on now.
As he was leaving, we embraced and he invited my husband Stephen and I to stop at his house on the way home. He told me he was reading a lot. That he had just read an interesting book about Eisenhower.
I asked him if he was just reading conservative voices. "I'm reading a variety." he said with interest.
I shared with him how important I thought it was that we read different perspeciives. I told him about an interfaith scripture class that I had taken in seminary and how Father Peter Phan had advocated that we read the sacred literature of other religions with the mind that we are willing to be converted.
We need to read with a curious mind and allow ourselves to be open to the integrity of another's perspective.
(It reminds me of my desire for the paper to host a book group and to gather people from both sides of the political aisle to read a book from a liberal perspective and to read a book from a conservative perspective and to be in dialogue about them: the differences, the similarities, the nuances and intersections. If you're interested in such a moderated group, drop me a line at email@example.com. If there's enough interest, we'll put one together in the New Year.)
Standing in the hallway, saying goodbye, we congratulate ourselves. We didn't talk about politics but we were able to communicate with each other that it was our differences and our willingness to be in dialogue about them that connected us.
We respected the edict and still connected, and not just by avoiding the conversation.
For that, I am grateful.