In the past, I have talked about my disappointment in how we as Americans are so sharply divided along party lines. I keep seeing examples of “Well, I can’t like him anymore because he’s a Democrat or she doesn’t have any sense, because she’s a Republican.” There’s a lot of instant anger and judgment without trying to find a common ground or listening to your opponent’s reasoning. We are too quick to make snap assumptions and too lazy and impatient to try and put ourselves in their shoes. My thoughts on this subject reminded me of a situation from high school where, luckily, I remained calm and used a bit of creativity to deescalate an unexpected situation.
It was 9th grade, and it was my first week at a new school. (So you probably know where I’m going with this…) Yep, I was a skinny nerdy-looking kid sitting in the school cafeteria with a free seat next to me, when up comes the biggest, scariest, long haired senior I’ve ever seen! He sits down beside me and without saying a word, starts eating my food right off my tray! He would eat a little out of one compartment and look at me, and then eat a little bit out of another and continue to stare at me to see how I would react. I thought about complaining, but instead I took a different approach, and I think it was the different approach that saved me a world of hurt. I put on my bravest most nonchalant face and very clearly said to him while looking into his eyes, “You should try the dessert. It looks good today.” When he heard that he smiled and got up and I never had any more trouble from him for the rest of the year.
So, that story doesn’t exactly go well with being more patient with your neighbor’s political views, but I think it does illustrate the importance of not flipping out when you think you’ve been wronged personally or intellectually. If I had complained or worse yet, told on that senior, I would have had a target on my back the rest of the year. But since I was willing to use humor, he was willing to drop the whole thing. I know this strategy won’t work in all situations. There are times the bully will keep eating, and there are some political beliefs out there that you do have to crush right away. But for the majority of disagreements, having some creativity and levity can keep things civil and even encourage more understanding and patience in the future. Thank you for reading my 43rd blog.