This column is like a baby; it needs tender care to survive. But publishing this post may drown it in the bathtub.
If you unsubscribe today, know that I understand entirely but will be saddened. No trigger warning here, but buckle your seatbelt because I am about to get political.
Here’s the question I want you to confront today: are your politics holding you back? I could rattle on about the growing cultural-political divide, but that’s not my area of expertise.
I presume you perceive the divide in your life and the media you consume and see the divide growing in Western society: the left pulling away from the right, and vice-versa.
But does it make sense, financially or personally, to dismiss those who disagree with us? In some cases: yes.
What’s great about our society is that we do not compel businesses to perform services for everyone. If a political organization requires assistance from the marketplace, players within the market may refuse to help the organization on ideological grounds.
I argue that extending that policy to individuals and apolitical organizations is bad for business but great for fostering civil war. Must we be allies in politics before we are allies in commerce?
In my opinion, no, and here’s where I come from.
In one of the bluest towns, inside one of the bluest districts, cradled within America’s bluest state, my parents raised me as a dyed-red conservative. My hometown of Glenview was so blue that in high school, my U.S. history teacher comfortably and openly mocked me during class for my support of George Bush; it was a challenging experience that emboldened me.
My friends, predominantly liberal or apathetic, refused to leave me be as right-leaning–they frequently accosted me for the beliefs I held, yet they remained my friends, and I theirs, some to this very day.
After university, I moved to San Francisco for my first job and, later, to Los Angeles–throughout, my politics gradually leaned further and further left as I encountered the people right-wing pundits criticized so harshly. Today, I find myself correcting my course again, and if you must know, I am center-right.
Why do I dare admit this to you?
I’ve lived, befriended, and worked with people who held beliefs vastly different from my own. I cooperate with people across the aisle, which we demand of the United States Congress, yet infrequently of ourselves.
And there was a time when I felt confident in being a lone dissenting voice, knowing that opinions alone could not put an affirmative end to my relationships.
Today, I feel many draw firmer and farther ideological lines in their sand. The divides grow deeper and the echo chambers louder; I fear speaking my mind, and the fear suffocates.
If you’ve read me at all, you may be surprised to learn that I hold back a lot in this column. I fear losing readers, my reputation, and, worst of all, my friends in the process. That I’ve expressed even this much gives me cause for concern.
People I love and respect read these words, and most haven’t the faintest clue of what I believe. I keep many thoughts close to my chest and remain a good, open person, especially when I engage with someone with a different perspective.
I do this because it is better to learn than to shy away from others and because I fear they will not extend me the same courtesy. Yet, the interactions with those I disagree with brought me to the center.
Being open to other opinions and empathizing with their circumstances gave me access to new perspectives. That practice is a devout liberal tenant, or at least it once was.
Ideological purity, which is, at best, a precise way to think, is now mistaken for an accurate way to think. Devoting yourself to a political party is duct-taping your mind and business to a thought rocket guided by people with greater blind spots than your own.
You merely nestle quietly at the base of the ideological projectile, but the leaders live at the distant tip, so high in the atmosphere, they remain comfortably buffered from opponents.
By cutting off business and relationships with people who share few of our beliefs, we deepen the already profound cultural divide, foster us-vs-them-ism, and, worst of all, leave good money on the table.
Is it worth it?