I come from a large family. My dad is one of nine siblings, and almost all of them still live within an hour of their childhood home. Even though I’m one who lives farther away, I have always been proud that our family is closely knit.
However, that does not mean that we agree about everything or even get along all of the time. In fact, anyone who follows me on Facebook knows that my family members are very often the ones disagreeing with me in the comments. Sometimes they are trolling, sometimes it gets heated, almost always outsiders think someone is angry when we’re not. The truth is, I love these people, and even though our differing opinions about the world make us want to smack our respective foreheads in frustration, we don’t have differing opinions about each other. These people are good, kind, honest, loving human beings who care about the world around them. We just often have opposing ideas about the means to that end.
I have learned a great deal about relationships, how to disagree with someone, conflict resolution, and humility from my family. (Especially during an election season, amiright?!) We come from similar backgrounds, have the same values, yet sometimes we lean toward opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to specific issues. There is undeniable tension when you learn someone you truly care about has an opinion that you find atrocious or is devoted to some bizarre conspiracy theory or posts an official statement that “I hereby give notice to Facebook it is strictly forbidden to disclose, copy, distribute, or take any action against me based on this profile and/or its contents, in accordance with federal law UCC 1-308- 1 5 958-103 and the Rome Statute.” (OMG Y’ALL PLEASE STOP DOING THIS, FOR REAL.)
The great lesson I have learned from disagreeing with my family is that underneath the opinions, we are all people.
My uncle is not secretly a garbage human disguised as a decorated military veteran who has dedicated his life to serving others; he is an incredible person who has had a vast breadth of life experiences apart from my own and has come to his own conclusions about the world and how to make it better. My cousin is not masquerading as a devoted father and entrepreneur while secretly promoting a radical political agenda online; he is an incredibly gifted and creative man who has sacrificed everything for his family, actively invests in his community, and fights against injustice. My perfectly healthy friend who wears a face covering every time she sees another human is not a coward; she is thinking of her vulnerable mother and hoping to protect those around her. My other friend who advocates against mask mandates is not heartless; she is raising a son with an auditory disability who cannot safely navigate a world where he cannot see others’ mouths when they talk. Our friends who are teachers and fear for their own safety deserve to be considered when making plans about classroom education; at the same time, those who are single parents with multiple children cannot both go into work and assist their children with various levels of distance learning.
The world around us is complicated and can be scary, but we have to remember that we are all humans.
In a society that seems bent on dividing people into categories and subcategories that vilify opponents and force us into increasingly narrow echo chambers, it is on us to reject those boundaries and cling to the humanity that unites us. Let us remember that our friends became friends because of our shared interests; our family — okay we didn’t choose them, but we know their stories and can see their hearts; our neighbors or co-workers, well they may be idiots, but they are human idiots with their own reasons behind the passion they feel.