Op-Ed Guide to Bridging the Divide

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This week has been the hardest yet of my adult life. Not only because I’m a liberal or a woman, but because I am also a citizen of a divided country. While I’ve been personally outraged by the rhetoric and actions of the Trump administration, many of my peers have been outraged by me. And in many cases, the feeling has been mutual. But the conclusion I’ve come to isn’t to throw my hands up and abandon every friendship with anyone who belongs to political views that make me say, “how can they possibly believe this?” It’s hard to swallow, but they’re probably saying the same about me. My conclusion is to be as good as I possibly can, to everyone I can be, and translate my outrage into more tangible actions.

I did not reach this conclusion easily. I came to it in tears, after too many FB commenting battles, un-follows from old friends, and raging rants to my roommate. While my like-minded friends offered me valuable support and comfort through my distress, my opposing friends slipped farther and farther into enemy-like territory. For a while, I thought this was necessary. I believed if they could live with the injustices that so pained me, they might not be worth my time. This was easy to do from a computer screen, from my drive to and from the women’s march. But it was impossible to do in person, at work, sitting next to people I had cherished for years. And in reality, I’ve come to understand (just a little) that it’s not really the point. Sinking thoroughly into partisanship does not allow for any checks and balances, and it doesn’t create any positive change. Whether you’re waiting this term out to see what happens, rejoicing in it, or fighting it with all your might; let’s not waste our momentous energy on picking battles in our personal lives. I’d rather organize myself towards action and hope my goodwill rubs off on anyone watching, than exasperate myself arguing with “alternative facts.” And if you’re with me, let’s get to work on a few things.

  1. Take Care of Yourself. Drink water. Sleep eight hours. Stretch. Take your vitamins. Make your bed in the morning. Cry when you need to. Moisturize after. Do everything you need to to feel like your best self.
  2. Click Unfollow. The message of this article may be to mend bridges, but we all have our limits. You probably won’t miss Christi from high school who posts alt-left conspiracy theories about Melania being President Trump’s prisoner; or worse, slut-shaming her for nude photos. And no one really needs to keep up with Justin from your first waitressing job who uses the word “feminazi” and believes late-term abortions actually happen outside of medical emergencies. Deep clean your newsfeed only to show the people in life you really care about.
  3. Turn off your social media. I’m not saying forever, and I’m not saying for long. Delete your FB apps for a day, maybe two and take some deep breaths. Take a step back from the black hole of scrolling and get your news from news outlets themselves (crazy thought right?).
  4. Read up.  Read the news, read the magazines, read a new book. Read something non-fiction and then read something that makes you laugh. Read something from the other side. Read something that affirms your beliefs. Write your beliefs down and read those too.
  5. Reach out. I felt some serious riffs when I returned from the women’s march. Close friends were hesitant to exchange greetings. They were wary of my lingering protest energy and in turn, I was wary of them. But it didn’t take much more than a bright smile and a book recommendation to reach some common ground. Reach out to the other side, familiarize yourselves with each other outside of your political views.
  6. Stand Up. Bipartisanship is not equal to silence. If you hear something you know is unfair or unjust, you should speak on it. Try to sneak a deep breath in before you open your mouth, and try to remember that at the end of the day the greatest thing you can change is yourself.
  7. Do something. People on either side of the spectrum can and should take political action. We’ve had the luxury of being able to sit back and turn our heads away from the political system we depend on for too long. Apathy does not make a democracy. Figure out what issues you’re most interested in and organize. Call your representatives, organize your friends, volunteer where you’re needed.
    I’ll step off the soap box and get back to selling clothes now.

    Written by Mara Strobel-Lanka.
     The political views and words of this piece are an opinion editorial, and do not belong to Momni Boutique.

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