Differences, Part Two

(Read Part One here)

I was part of College Republicans all four years in college. I volunteered for many campaigns, from mayoral to presidential. I attended campaign training at Ronald Reagan’s ranch and was in TIME Magazine as a result. I interned for former Speaker Newt Gingrich in Washington, D.C. and enjoyed every moment of the D.C. political experience. I loved being part of something, belonging.

I decided to lead with that to show that I speak from experience, and I speak from growth. Because while those experiences helped shape me into who I am today, they were also poisonous and I’ve had to unlearn many things.

Partisanship is like a gang in many respects. We’re taught to believe that the other side is our enemy, that their motives are evil, that they want to destroy our country. We’re taught that our party’s way is the only way and all others are false. Not even just false, but offensive and evil. We are rarely encouraged to work “across the aisle” but instead told that it’s pointless, that it will never work. We were taught to immediately distrust anyone who claims affiliation with the other side without even getting to know them.

I’ve spent twenty-two years now involved in politics in some way. What I have observed and come to understand is vastly different than what I believed when I started out.

What I have come to learn through my political experience is that the other side is NOT motivated by a desire to destroy our country. We all want the same things and want our country to succeed – we simply have different approaches and accompanying ideas to get there.

Different isn’t bad. Different gives us options. Different allows for course correction when the way we thought was best turns out to be a dead end.

Everyone’s life experiences provide perspective and no one’s perspective is wrong. Each is valid and worthy of consideration rather than dismissal.

Think about your own life and how you came to belong to the political party you chose. Where you were raised, by whom you were raised, your economic situation, etc. all factor in when it comes to your political perspective.

What if, instead of assuming that the other political party is motivated by evil, you spoke open-mindedly with someone of that party to learn their perspective, their motivation, their dreams for our country? What if you took the time to listen to perspectives other than your own, narratives (media) that don’t play into what you already think?

What if you were to humbly consider that no party has everything exactly right and you might be wrong on an issue?

Pride and the refusal to learn from others are what are destroying us as a country.

When I began fighting for improved Newborn Screening in Pennsylvania four years ago I was working with a Democratic representative who had been fighting for Krabbe NBS for years. We had two bills die, never even being sent to the House floor for consideration, because the minority party introduced it. There was no assessment of the merit of the bill. No consideration that the bill was non-partisan. I was told directly from the source that the bills had no chance because they “don’t want to give a Philly Democrat a win.”

I never dreamed it would be my own party that would kill a beautiful piece of legislation that benefits newborns because of partisanship.

This forced me to go to a majority party Senator to introduce a THIRD bill so I could play the partisan game and finally get a bill to the Governor’s desk.

I don’t say that to bash on Republicans because it would be that way toward Republicans if the Democrats had a majority. It’s an endless cycle. But, the lessons I have learned about the pointlessness of partisanship have drastically changed my outlook.

It shouldn’t be this way. We’ve removed the humanity of each person who belongs to the other party and assume the worst. And it’s killing us.

I will close with this challenge: please consider what I’ve said and look at your own heart. Are you blindly believing things about the other party without considering their life experiences and perspective that have led to their beliefs? Are you allowing the media from your chosen bias to influence how you view them? Are you guilty of this nasty partisanship that is destroying our country? Are you forgetting that the other political party is made up of real human beings who are passionate about their country just as you are?

Change MUST happen, and it’s our responsibility – not the government, not just those in elected offices. It’s OUR job to stop being so vicious toward those who don’t see things as we do. It’s time for empathy, respect, and objectivity.

To quote my favorite movie: “America isn’t easy. America is advanced citizenship. You’ve gotta want it bad, ’cause it’s gonna put up a fight. It’s gonna say, “You want free speech? Let’s see you acknowledge a man whose words make your blood boil, who’s standing center stage and advocating at the top of his lungs that which you would spend a lifetime opposing at the top of yours.” – The American President

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