Can Republicans and Democrats be friends?

The philosophical differences between Democrats and Republicans

I was talking to one of my very best friends today, KC, whom I have known all of my life, who knows me better than my relatives do.  Sisters by choice, we can talk about anything, even politics and she suggested I write about this:  can Republicans and Democrats be friends?

I would say a resounding yes, with one exception, those on the extreme left and the extreme right who might somehow find a middle ground, but only with a gap the size of the Grand Canyon.

Of course, this is just my opinion.

I am not overly fond of labels, like Democrat and Republican, liberal, racist or Neo-Nazi.  However, we do like to label one another.  It seems our minds want to organize people into simple labeled boxes like tax receipts, but does anyone really fit neatly into one of those boxes or are the boxes bulging at the seams?  When we slap a quick label on someone do we hurt the person we are labeling or ourselves, for the missed opportunity brought on by judgment?

A few years ago, I gave up being judgmental.  It started as an exercise but turned into a lifestyle change.    I suddenly realized what judgment does to the judge.  It causes one to miss the hidden beauty in humanity, to believe the lie of the masks we all parade, to give credence to rumor and speculation and to forget our mission here on earth, which is to leave this world a better place than it was when we entered it.

So, can Democrats and Republicans be friends?  Bill O’Reilly asked this question on his program.  Stop right there, if you think Bill O’Reilly is a right-wing guy, then you obviously have not watched his program.  Watch first, then judge if you want.

I give Bill credit for attempting to cross the journalistic aisle and appear on programs such as The View, The David Letterman Show and to spar with John Stewart.  This gives me hope for American broadcast journalism, there might be a middle ground, eventually.

Watch o’Reilly on Letterman

I like to think of myself as an independent.  I even like the word; it has so many beautiful connotations.  I have in the past, voted for both Republicans and Democrats, making my decision based on the issues at hand, although on the books, in the box, I am ‘labeled’ a Republican.  Currently, that platform is the most appealing to me.

Oh, and yes I do have friends who are both Democrats and Republicans.  So why is it taboo to talk about politics?  What’s the big deal?  I’ve had friends become enraged over political comments made in jest, whose political viewpoints were so fragile, so easily offended, that they were unable to allow casual comments to pass.  If they were true friends we got past it, if not, we didn’t.  So if you’re squeamish, maybe avoid the topic with acquaintances, but not with good friends.

My friend KC admits to being a Democrat.  She is a single mother, who lost her husband to cancer, very suddenly, at the age of thirty-four.  Not long after that, during the foreclosure crisis, she and her daughter lost their home.   A few years later, after rebuilding their lives, a house fire took everything they owned, clothing, photographs, mementos, but thankfully, no one was hurt.

KC is a college graduate actively seeking employment but says, for her daughter, she is willing to wait tables or clean houses, whatever it takes.  “At least,” she says, “I can be home when my daughter gets home from school.”  She cannot afford daycare.  She cannot afford healthcare, but she says, “I’m lucky.  I went through a horrible time, but I have my health, I have my daughter and I’ve learned to appreciate what really matters in life.”

Forget the labels; they only lead to divisive thinking.  Fighting among ourselves will never make our country stronger.  There is one label we can all wear proudly and that is American.

Voting Rights

Suffrage March 1913

Distracted by the coverage of the upcoming Presidential election, I cannot write about anything else.  It is unfathomable to me that there are people who are either apathetic or uninformed when it comes to politics.

Maybe my fixation is a result of living in close proximity to where all the action happens, near our Nations Capitol.   Every time I enter the city, I feel a swell of American pride, awe and patriotism.  Ironically, the population in this area is somewhat sheltered from the problems of the rest of the Country.  The struggle is not as magnified here, where house prices and employment levels remain high.

I was not engaged at one time and am unsure of when I changed my mind and decided to start paying attention.  I remember feeling about politics the way I felt about golf.  How boring!  Then I started to play golf, not so much by choice but to participate in client tournaments and began to understand the fascination of wanting to get that little ball into that little hole in fewer strokes than the other guy or gal.  My competitive nature took over.

By that same token, there is nothing boring about politics.  If that is what you think, you are merely uninformed.  If that is what you think, you have not been watching the debates. 

Could politics be an interest that develops with age?

Now, being at an age and in an income bracket where so many decisions made by politicians, directly affect me, have I simply just woken up?

Is it because I have Veterans in my family?

Perhaps it is due, in part, to my friends and family members in the military or due to my personal experience of military life.

Maybe, my interest magnified after living in Europe and witnessing their economic and Healthcare issues.

Or, simply put, maybe I feel I am caught in the middle, as a member of the middle class, the knot in the tug of war between the political parties and a member of the gender they are currently squabbling over?

The only problem with this theory is that “we the people” are all affected by the decisions politicians make, whether they tell us what they are doing with our money or not, whether we realize what is happening in the world and how our country is tied to it or not, whether we are aware or not.

As an informed voter, I seek information via multiple television news sources, newspapers, magazines, the radio, the internet and in discussions with others.  It is not hard.  I absorb information while exercising, cooking, checking e-mail and driving, all with minimal effort.  I do not take much stock in celebrity endorsements.  Why trust a professional actor to be truthful?  Rather, I make my own decisions based on my values.  I have the advantage of knowing what those beliefs are and where the candidates stand on issues that are important to me.  Finally, I abhor desperate attempts by the candidates to smear one another or to placate me.

I may be a candidate’s worst nightmare.

For women in America, voting rights began in 1920, less than 100 years ago.  Respecting this right means that I know how fortunate I am to be an American woman.  Respecting this, means that I take my rights seriously.  Whichever candidate for whom you cast your vote, please, respect the right enough to make an informed decision.