Thursday, February 20, 2014

Inter-Ideological Relationships: What's to gain?


This week my very talented friend, political life expert, prolific journalist, and well-known libertarian blogger George Scoville wrote about his recent engagement to a member of the Democratic party - and why it works.

I read the article to my family over breakfast and it got great reviews, plus spurred an interesting discussion. The essence of George's message is this:

"My instincts tell me that it's not people's specific politics that make them compatible or incompatible, but how they prioritize their politics within the order of the rest of their lives."


Perhaps there is a time to shield oneself from opposing views, cultivate ties with only people who think exactly like we do, seek friends and family who are identical ideological and experiential reflections of ourselves... I know there are times when my natural first reaction to adversity was exactly this type of mindset. 

But my experience has been that this type of inward-looking, support-seeking mindset is neither the healthiest nor the most productive. It doesn't inspire me to be creative; it doesn't push me to learn something new or answer the hard questions - like WHY.  Why I believe something or think a certain way.  Why I hold this value and not that one. And I would venture to suggest that this type of mindset probably doesn't expand your horizons, either.  While George was specifically addressing romantic relationships, I'd like to broaden the discussion to include platonic ones as well.

Part of life's greatest beauty is the opportunity to explore this big wide world and all the variations of perspective and experience. There is so much to gain from stepping outside your worldview and exploring another's.

I speak from experience. 

If you've known me long, you know that I am:
Politically libertarian and living in Scandinavia.  Christian and lived in a Buddhist monastery.  Not a "partier" but have worked in a few bars.  
And that I:
Would prefer a smaller government but have worked / interned at almost every level of U.S. government.  Support Israel but have a whole bunch of really great Palestinian friends.  Personally wouldn't choose an LGBT lifestyle, but love and care about friends who have.

It has been a truly rewarding journey of sacrificing a little bit of my own comfort, and a lot of my own pride, in order to see the world with new eyes.  I've learned that the socio-economic, political, biological, ideological climates we are born into have an effect on us.  But more importantly, our own choices about how we're going to approach the world - our attitudes - are most deterministic.  Do we choose to allow our assumptions to be challenged?  Do we choose to participate in conversations we might not be able to "win"?  There are times I took the risk, and won the respect of someone.  Other times I took the risk and felt foolish when I realized my assumptions were all wrong.  And there have certainly been times I chickened out, or was decidedly lazy, and missed out on learning something great.

I agree with George: It's truly about prioritizing. The means by which inter-ideological relationships flourish is a keen understanding of what each cannot compromise, a security in one's own identity, and a sincere desire to understand the other.









Photo: Ferrying across the Baltic Sea, April 2011, with St. Petersburg, Russia behind me.
I was repeatedly approached on public transportation by tourists seeking "the most Russian-looking girl they could find" in order to get bona-fide directions to local venues.  I always graciously gave them, remarking, with a smile, that I'm actually American.  You should have seen the looks on those faces :)   

What keeps me traveling is the challenge of adapting to a completely new, foreign environment. I love the learning process and the fun of transforming myself into a stealthy chameleon amid a culture I'm getting to know better and better. And blending in.  Because, as all seasoned travelers will tell you, it's only when you blend in - when your presence ceases to influence the behavior of those around you - that you can truly observe people in their natural habitat.

Now it's your turn to weigh in. Like George did, I'm passing the baton.  What are your experiences with inter-ideological relationships?

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