A few weeks ago, my husband and I were walking around our neighborhood, mostly checking out our neighbors' Halloween decorations, when we came to two rather distinctive political displays across the road from one another. The yard on the left proudly displayed a large Biden/Harris banner, along with some smaller signs for other local Democrat candidates. The yard on the right was decked out with signs and flags promoting Trump, local Republicans, and the slogan “Keep America Great.” A wry grin crossed my face as I commented to my husband, “I wonder how well these two get along.”
It's rather amazing how quickly we tend to judge one another as soon as a political sign shows up in someone's yard or someone shares a political viewpoint on social media. Politics has somehow become such a defining factor of our lives that one expression of support for a particular opinion or candidate can dramatically change our view of someone. Sadly, a simple yard sign can instantly divide otherwise friendly neighbors into hostile camps, potentially damaging relationships even after the election.
Why do we so quickly judge people based on politics? I think there are several reasons. For one, political views and news stories from the “other side” are frequently misrepresented and misunderstood. Stories presented as scandalous and appalling are often ridiculously exaggerated, as even a passing glance at the evidence reveals. But sometimes we are so entrenched in our viewpoint that our confirmation bias kicks in and causes us to make inaccurate assumptions. On the other hand, we can clearly see when a story from “our side” is treated unfairly. We need to be intellectually honest enough to take a good look at evidence from all sides before forming our opinions.
Another way we misjudge people is by assuming that because they support Candidate A, they support everything that Candidate A favors and does. Or similarly, because a person supports Cause B, we believe he must also support Causes C, D, and E. Although we ourselves may like some characteristics of a candidate or cause without liking everything related to either one, we often don't give others the same allowance. We can't make assumptions about everything a person believes based on just one vote or one political opinion.
Along these lines, we tend to forget the person behind the political viewpoint. Perhaps it's been this way for a long time, but I think the digital age has made it all too easy to hide behind our screens and type things that we wouldn't normally have the guts to say in person. It's also easier to find those who think like us, surround ourselves primarily with their company, and begin to believe that anyone who thinks differently is a moron.
I admit, when I encounter a viewpoint with which I disagree, my first instinct is to start composing an argument for why it is absolutely wrong. But recently during one of these moments, I made myself stop and think for a minute about my friend with whom I was about to argue. Instead of being appalled by how poorly informed this person must be, I thought, “What prompted him to write this?” Maybe someone’s experience has been very different from mine, causing him to develop a very different point of view. I may still disagree with someone’s conclusion, but perhaps I should spend more time trying to understand why he thinks this way. Perhaps we would all learn some valuable lessons if we took the time to be kind, to truly listen, and to care more about the person behind the statement than the statement itself.
Understand, I believe that politics is important, and that we ought to advocate for what we believe is right for our country. But I think it's time to reevaluate our priorities when we start to view political victory as more important than the real people around us. Even as we take a stand for our important freedoms, we must remember that our ultimate goal is to love our neighbors as ourselves and to treat them the way we want to be treated.
As homeschooling parents, the way we approach politics can have a big impact on our kids. We often give our children a firm grounding in history and civics. But if we do not treat our political neighbors with respect and fairness, we may end up giving our children a bad taste for our political opinions because of the way we have represented those beliefs.
So as we share our political views and teach them to our children, I hope we can do it in a way that is kind, generous, and intellectually honest. We must demonstrate to our children and others the value of our friends and neighbors as people loved by God rather than people on the other side of the political aisle.