I walked into the patient’s room, a pleasant-looking man of a certain age, and my gaze fell on the book sitting on top of the covers, a biography of Donald Trump. The tv was tuned to Fox News. I made the assumption this man and I had very different political views, confirmed by the conversation he quickly initiated. I was vague and neutral in my answers – I certainly don’t want to start an argument with a perfect stranger who just had a pace maker inserted in his chest – and walked out after a few minutes.
The moment was unremarkable. I interact with different people, of different opinions, every day: sometimes I get annoyed, other times I am troubled but, mostly, I let it go. We all do – unless it’s a matter of profound injustice or racism that compels me to speak up.
But the gentleman popped back into my mind a few nights ago, during a presentation I was dragged to (where I did not properly apply the “do I give a f***” principle). The subject was: 7 rules that will allow you to get along with everyone (especially your significant other). The speaker briefly touched on the subject of having meaningful and deep relationships with people who hold profoundly different views than ours and brought up her best friend, whom she had known since childhood, who was very conservative, while the speaker had more of a liberal bend. Still, they were best friends, relied on each other constantly and talked about everything. But politics.
I grew up in a family that is much more conservative than I am – I was always veering way too much to the left for their tastes. They don’t love me any less nor do I them, and we merrily engage in endless discussions that don’t sway either party. And of course I have friends who believe all kinds of things I deem to be lunacy, or merely don’t see eye to eye with me on a number of subjects. But none of them are part of my close inner circle, populated by people of my ilk.
I tried to imagine sofagirl as a Trump supporter. Or a three-decade long relationship with her during which politics were never mentioned. It didn’t seem possible. I took it a step further and I imagined being married to someone with fundamental different values than mine, how it would work, and I just couldn’t see it. Can it be done, I wondered? Do mutual love and respect transcend civic values? Is the ability to listen politely and refrain from arguing enough? Does it make for more interesting cohabitation?
Above all, what is non negotiable when it comes to values and principles? And if diversity is the spice of life, how much diversity in our deepest relationships is too much diversity?