Nearly one year ago, I sipped coffee on the back porch of a cottage overlooking a pond as the owner explained why she had taken ivermectin to treat COVID. I knew she had made assumptions about me when she saw my blue electric vehicle with DC plates sitting in her gravel driveway — much as I had made assumptions about her when I slept under the watchful gaze of no less than 20 deer heads on the wall of her AirBnB. Yet, we had a respectful conversation that I dare say was brave, challenging at times, and also deeply important — and for which we were both grateful, as we shared in text exchanges many weeks after my stay.
I recalled that conversation last week in watching the latest installment of America at a Crossroads, which kicks off with an inspiring Heineken beer commercial.
“We know each other better than people who’ve known each other for 10 minutes should,” one person remarks, demonstrating just how quickly we learn about a person — if we are open to it. Unfortunately, many of us in the United States are not open to conversations with “the other side.”
But here’s the good news that more people need to know: research finds our negative expectations of the “other side” are overblown. People who do engage are shocked to find they can have a decent conversation — which is all the more reason we need to have those conversations.
As someone who thinks a lot about the stories and narratives that shape the way we see the world, I’m encouraged when leaders reach across the aisle to reinforce our shared commitment to civility.
Housesitting around the country broke me out of the “big sort” and “box” (literal and figurative) I’d been living in, which is how I came to be driving through rural Georgia and sipping coffee while finding common ground.
The full video includes an interview with Professor Robb Willer, whose research confirms very few people of any political persuasion want violence. All things being equal, the vast majority of people want to lead their lives in peace. So how can we overcome the negativity that seems to swirl around us?
All of this can be neatly summarized in the words of one of the gubernatorial candidates in the first video above:
Does it matter which one said it? Not. In. The. Slightest.
(Photo by Wil Stewart)