A few weekends ago this fragile Jew flew to Texas to meet his girlfriend's very conservative mom and dad.
If you were to write out a list of people who wouldn’t like me it would read:
Conservatives, Christians, Gun Owners, Oil Men, and Justin Timberlake (I don’t trust him).
It is mainly because (in order):
I’ve had several public conversations with Noam Chomsky.
The Bible scares me more than Pet Sematary.
I would accidentally kill myself if I owned a gun.
I drive a Prius.
And I don’t trust Justin Timberlake.
My girlfriend's dad worked in oil and voted for Trump. Her mom sends her weekly bible verses.
My dad worked for Medicare and voted for Hillary Clinton. My mom bought me my first pack of cigarettes.
Texas is filled with hard-working Southerners. I, on the other hand, spent my first day in LA at a vegan sound bath and meditation (whatever that means).
If I had encountered her parents on Twitter or Facebook before I knew them it would have been a nightmare of disastrous proportions.
Because of how we all behave on social media we assume everyone who disagrees with us politically is a monster who sits in the back of their pickup truck looking for puppies to throw bottles at.
In a past life, I used to judge people who disagreed with me. If I was on Twitter and saw a bald eagle, American flag, or a guy holding a fish in his avatar I would assume we were enemies.
I figured if you didn’t want to raise the minimum wage you wanted poor people to die. Or if you didn’t want free education you wanted only the powerful to read books.
Turns out that’s not the case! Not all people who disagree with you are evil. Some just have different opinions on how we should make change.
Isn’t that good? That we don’t live in a country where half the population is puppy-killing, monsters who like Justin Timberlake?!
If you just look at social media, however, you only see cartoonish caricatures of the other team. If you voted for Trump, you are a racist who grabs women by the pussy and have stupid catchphrases. If you’re a liberal, you are throwing milkshakes at everyone while demanding they work in the fields in exchange for bread. There is no reason to talk to anyone who disagrees! This is war!
We have stopped asking questions. We have stopped being intellectually curious. We just shout our talking points into an echo chamber and bask in our own smugness.
I’m not saying you need to agree with Trump supporters or Trump supporters need to agree with you. But if you truly care about the issues in which you tweet, don’t you want some of them to hear you out?
I used to brag about not having conservatives in my life. I stopped talking to my grandma when I saw she had a picture with George Bush. Like my grandma was personally calling in the airstrikes to Iraq and Afghanistan.
I was actually proud of ignoring half the population. I was a cool kid again. I knew better than everyone else and didn’t need my brain to be sullied with opinions other than mine.
So that brings us back to the Jew in Texas…
Here is another list of things I know:
My girlfriend’s parents are conservative, God-fearing, oil people.
They love my girlfriend more than life itself.
That is how much I love her.
Those were the only facts I went into the weekend caring about.
It was one of the most wonderful weekends of my life. I knew how much my liberal girlfriend loved them and how much they loved her. Politics didn’t matter. People can still be judged by their hearts and their actions.
And here’s the crazy part, we talked about politics! Right out of the gate! And it was amazing. I’m not suggesting to any other boyfriend to kick down the door of their girlfriend's parents’ house and start ranting about guns and gays in the church, but for us, it worked. And guess what? We agreed on a ton!
Maybe we wanted the same outcome but in different ways. I wanted more regulation, her dad wanted regulation by someone who knew what they were talking about and not the government. Their church is starting to stand up for gay rights. And I love gay rights!
When I got home I decided to reach out to a conservative friend I had previously written off. We started talking about clean energy - because we both want it! He doesn’t really care about climate change, but he thinks America should be number one and China is going to beat us in alternative energy; whereas, I’m happy with America being a decent looking six, but am terrified of climate change. What matters though is that we both want the same thing, and I would have never known this if I didn’t engage.
I still haven’t talked to my grandma, probably because of shame — maybe I'll write to her when I’m done with this. But now I text “I love you” to my girlfriend's mom and she texts it back. I read her bible verses, and it turns out the book has some dope stuff in it and isn’t as bad as being attacked by dead former pets.
I know that the people who raised someone as thoughtful and kind as Emma are good people. I know that some people had different experiences than me. I know that everyone can change. I know that conversation works, that asking people questions puts them at ease, and that you can be open-minded with almost anyone.
If I had walked in and they had told me to put my shoes next to the burning cross this wouldn’t have happened. I still will never tolerate hateful bigots in my life, but the majority of people who we disagree with aren’t hateful bigots. They just disagree, and that’s ok.