There’s an oversimplification of conflict – especially of the political variety – that tends to result in non-useful mantras like, “When given the choice between being right and being kind, always choose being kind.” Or attitudes like, “No argument is worth losing family,” or “I love the PERSON, not the POLITICS.”
But as someone whose political believe stretch down to her soul, I am always annoyed by these things.
Like…every time they cross my internet feed I want to post a long diatribe in response. And since I know better than to do that, I’m going to use my newly revived blog to vent a little bit.
First: I hate the word “political” sometimes. It’s the best word for what I’m trying to represent, but often people discount politics as “Who you vote for,” when – for people like me – it’s about so much more than that. It’s about how I want my government to run, how I want my communities to function, and who I want to try to lift up. My “politics” are not just about who I vote for, but who I fight for, which is much more important.
Second of all, often times political conflict represents much deeper differences that are not easily overlooked. It’s not just because someone might vote differently than me, but it’s because of what it symbolizes they prioritize. I am currently devastated by the damage being done to Trans kids across our country as states attempt to legislate their health care and schools to try jeopardize their safety. Voting for a school board member who supports forcing teachers to “out” Trans students that have confided in them? That’s more than a vote to me. That’s more than politics. That’s human rights and if we vote differently there, then we are fundamentally different in way we look at the world. I’m not keeping you at arm’s length because of who you voted for, I’m keeping you at arm’s length because of the views you have that dictated who you voted for.
Thirdly, the reduction of conflict to right/wrong and kind/unkind is so useless to me. There are many boundaries we all do set (or maybe need to set) with people in our lives that the other person will DEFINITELY say is “unkind” to them. However, by setting that boundary you are BEING KIND TO YOURSELF. In the discourse around “choosing kindness” in conflict, it tends to overlook the fact that being kind to someone often is at the sacrifice to kindness to yourself.
I had to learn a lot about really tough boundary setting in the last few years and I promise you I have been called “unkind” in many of those conversations. However, it has been the kindest thing I could do for myself because I have freed myself of all of the perpetual cycles of conflict that are nourished in toxic relationships. I can see someone seeing the “Choose Kind over Being Right” meme and definitely thinking about me, but any time I push someone away or set a boundary it may not be kind to them, but it very much is to me.
And I bring this up in relationship to politics because the political environment in this country since 2016 has really brought a lot of political difference to the surface in a lot of my relationships. My circle of influence has changed dramatically since Tr*mp rose to power during the 2016 election. The silver lining was that this forced me into reckoning with what I want to invest in, in terms of relationships. And I no longer feel then need to try to build connections with everyone. I look for early signs and if it seems like our politics don’t align, I just keep you at arm’s length. Period. I’m never cruel but I’m not going to try to really connect on a deep level with someone who doesn’t prioritize the same things I do.
And this is why every time I see some sort of oversimplification of political conflict, or any type of conflict, I roll my eyes because it’s not realistic in the slightest to anyone who things deeply about these things.