My best friend is Catholic. I am not.
I am a person of color. She is not.
She is a conservative. I am a progressive.
In this day and age, our relationship would not work on paper. However, we have managed to set our political differences aside and couldn’t be closer as friends. I am thankful petty ideological disagreements don’t stand in our way, given that political polarization is increasing. Between 2004 and 2014, Republicans and Democrats saw a sharp increase in the number of people who saw the other party as a threat to the nation. Even though many news outlets have announced Joe Biden as the new president-elect, more than 80 percent of Republicans said he didn’t win legitimately according to the Economist. Even though there is still significant animosity surrounding the election, I believe we can still salvage our relationships with family, friends and coworkers.
As Aggies, the best way for us to begin healing is by expressing three of Texas A&M’s Core Values: respect, integrity and leadership.
Respect is potentially the most significant of the Aggie Core Values. In the age of social media, 20 percent of American adults read most of their news on networking sites like Twitter and Facebook according to Pew Research. Concerningly, these sites often employ algorithms that prevent us from seeing conflicting viewpoints. Our inability to understand those who are different makes demonizing them all too easy. As such, many Americans have lost respect for people on the other side of the political spectrum.
The first step to ameliorating this issue is understanding that people are more than their political beliefs. When I met my best friend for the first time, she was decked out in her orange and white Houston Astros jersey. Although I will always be a Red Sox fan, we swiftly bonded over our love for baseball. Even better, we’re both gigantic Star Wars nerds and Harry Potter fans.
People who have different political affiliations are not our enemies. Recognizing where we have common ground is the first step to humanizing others and treating them with respect.
At some point, those good old political dinner conversations will slither back into our lives. As such, integrity will also be essential for preserving our relationships. My best friend and I have had many of these discussions over coffee. Shockingly, we still have yet to raise voices, slam doors or spit curse words at one another. I think we both go into these discussions without any expectations of changing the other’s mind. That being said, what’s most important is that we talk, not debate, in good faith.
While my friend and I have a set of unspoken rules, setting guidelines for political discussions can go a long way. Furthermore, some suggest placing more of an emphasis on values and ideas rather than candidates. These steps can help turn vitriol-fueled spitting sessions into meaningful discourse.
Lastly, leadership will be necessary for helping those around us heal from this divisive election. Repairing our nation isn’t something that can happen on just an individual level — we need to heal as a community. Going beyond simple discussions with family and friends, we have the tools to implement widespread change.
Employers can help facilitate healthy discussions as almost 80 percent of Americans discuss politics in the workplace according to the research firm Gartner. Furthermore, suppose your friend group starts a charged political argument. In that case, you can step in as a mediator and ensure everyone talks in a respectful manner. Setting an example is one of the most effective leadership methods, whether for our friends, coworkers or children. We show kids today that a better path can help future generations stitch the fabric of our nation together. Americans preach tolerance, and it is up to us to demonstrate it as well.
My best friend thinks I’m wrong 80 percent of the time regarding politics, and vice versa. Nevertheless, she’ll give me a hug, send me memes to make me laugh and share videos on TikTok. To me, she’s more than just her conservative beliefs. She’s the girl that made me obsessed with The Last Airbender, who watches the Mandalorian with me and stands by my side no matter what. I pray more Americans can build the same interpersonal relationships and help our country start to heal.
Caleb Powell is a biomedical engineering sophomore and columnist for The Battalion. His column is typically published online every other Wednesday when not in the Thursday newspaper.