What It Means to Be Open-minded in a Divisive Nation

In my circle of friends and family, I’m known as the quirky one. I’m the odd, funny girl who wishes for peace, love, and happiness for everyone. I’m deeply spiritual, and my cross necklace is a permanent fixture around my neck.

I grew up in a non-political family. Politics was something that was never mentioned. However, I’ve always had fond memories from childhood of seeing Ronald Reagan speaking on TV. He had such a nice smile and spoke with such confidence and gusto.

After high school, I met a girl who would become my best friend. She was a Republican. She came from a family of wealthy Republicans. Her influence, in addition to my religious faith, plus my endless search for identity, made it seem like identifying as Republican was a no-brainer.

I was pretty conservative-minded, after all. I voted Republican for years. I also voted for my party in 2016. There was no way I was voting for another “corrupt Democrat”.  I was pretty shocked when my party won the presidential election. I was gleeful but also a bit scared.

What if our new president wasn’t up to the task? What if it was a huge mistake to vote for someone with no political experience? Despite my fears, I defended my vote on a debate board and amongst a few outlier friends and family who vote Democrat.

I kept up hope that our president would say the words we so desperately needed to hear as a nation to unite us and bring honesty back to politics. It was after the tragedy in Charlottesville that I realized the president I voted for would never unite us. I started to take the president at his word rather than defend “what he really meant.”

I started to post articles, statistics, opinions, etc. on social media about why the president’s language was harmful to the US socially. I posted about racial injustices and that although I would not kneel for the national anthem I did understand why people chose to.

When my conservative Republican circle saw me start to change my tune politically some would immediately comment on my posts with ferocious ire. I rationally countered with facts, statistics, and articles. They came back with cussing, sarcasm, and personal attacks. I was dumbfounded and incredibly hurt.

My own brother, whom I was quite close to, told me I was disgusting, that I was on the highway to hell, and that I have no morals or ethics. He called me a liar, said I’m sticking up for Satan. I could go on and on.

Other male friends chose to belittle me as if I were a defector from their team, and one told me that I should be ashamed of myself because my mother raised me better than that. A female family member blocked me after I nicely asked her for a source to prove something she said that was obviously not factually true as she had claimed. I was treated like a Judas.

When I stated that I understood why people knelt for the national anthem, I was attacked by my veteran friends, even though I said I would not kneel myself. A family member who is a former police officer deemed me a “cop hater,” even though I supported him through his career. I have quite a few friends who are police officers, and I respect them very much. I’m very grateful for the work they do in the community and I’ve always said as much.

This was all so bizarre to me. Why did they think that my entire identity, morals, values, and even my deep religious faith changed simply because I could no longer defend a president who was behaving so negatively and who was continuously divisive? I didn’t use strong, divisive language, but I was being treated like a hated pariah. I was calm, and I used rational language, yet that was not what I received in return. Far from it.

I do not understand the seemingly-complex social requirements that some neurotypicals hold; the requirements that could make anyone react so incredulously to someone changing their views. I’ve tirelessly tried to offer reasons for me changing my views.

I’ve posted scripture that I deeply believe in to refute things we see happening in our country. I’ve provided facts, statistics, quotes, and links. I feel like I’m providing all of these valid reasons, and they are only going to see me as a defector no matter what I do.

I don’t think I’ll ever understand what it is that could make someone call themselves “open-minded” and “accepting,” but then turn around and ostracize a friend/family member for having a change of heart regarding their support of a political figure.

A president is only in office for 4-8 years. Family is forever, and good friends should be, too. I believe that being “open-minded” is to accept people with all different kinds of views, but to question views which are harmful to others.

I’ve come to grips with the fact that I may never understand. I’m also strong enough in my identity now to stand for what I believe in. I have a peaceful heart and have realized that the “unfriend” button is not to be feared.

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5 Responses

  1. This is a wonderful post. Thank you. I assume that by posting here you identify as aspie, but I want to assure you that your puzzlement and disappointment over the reactions of Trump partisans is definitely, widely shared among neurotypical democrats. Reason and empirical evidence have been trashed by Trump, and why his followers believe he is right does not make sense to any reasoning person, aspie or not.

  2. You’re a lot like me in a way. I supported Ronald Regan in 1980 believing that America needed strong Conservative leadership. I was serving in the military at the time an was hopeful because he was going to raise the military budget. However, I began to get doubtful after two years. Yes, I’d get a pay rise but government contractors would raise the costs of clothing and equipment well beyond the rise. We were told that the armed forces had reached their recruiting quotas but I was still leading a squad just over half strength as well as using gear the army used in the Korean War. However, my final disillusionment with Ron came a few months after I left the service, when my old unit was blown up in Lebanon supposedly there to keep the peace. I lost friends that day.
    Many people couldn’t understand why that would turn me against Regan and sometimes with my Asperger’s, I couldn’t explain it, which didn’t help. Then he wanted to carry out the same destructive policies with his Contra War in Nicaragua. I got a lot of stick from Conservatives because and ex marine wasn’t supposed to think this way. To make a long story short, I became a Marxist for a while but that was a phase.
    I guess what I am saying here is I feel what you are going through and I give you my total support.

  3. Thank you for sharing your personal story and for your support. I’m sorry that you lost friends in Labanon that day. I think as Aspies it’s almost inherent that we stay true to what we believe to be right, rather than to follow blindly because that is what others want us to do. Thank you for your service and sacrifice for this country and it’s citizens.

  4. I feel as though myself and a lot of the people I’m in contact with are experiencing the mirror image of this.

    We grow up in left-wing, liberal circles and assume, as a result, that the people we surround ourselves with, will genuinely care about our issues and will be tolerant to disagreements, only to find that anyone who expresses conservative, right-libertarian or centrist but not mainstream viewpoints is viewed as a monster and people who express left-libertarian and anarchist viewpoints are viewed as divisive, immature and stupid.

    When I put forward my views on abortion, I’m viewed as a misogynist; in recent times, when I’ve criticized rioting, people criticize me not because they think I’m putting forward a distraction to a social issue, but because they’re utterly convinced that a group of people smashing things up (who, conveniently, never directly affect them) are to be praised and apologized for because they “make history” (read: at best, are the only things governments notice, at worst, are the only things the salacious press reports and teachers in poorly-taught history classes bother to mention).

    Like other people, I have come too late to the realization that Trump, and other politicians are divisive and negative; as someone who struggles with communicating the right thing to people, I thought it was productive to give people the benefit of the doubt; I now realize that a certain point, it’s better to step aside and let someone else talk if you’re that bad at communicating your ideas to people (but in Trump’s case, he’s either being deliberately manipulative or doesn’t have a clue).

    I’ve spent ages trying to defend this person and others I wasn’t necessarily in agreement with, simply because I noticed that those on the mainstream left are the sort who would claim someone had smashed someone else’s car to bits if they noticed a politician had gotten a flat tire on their own car. If I mention people who agree with me, they’re all bigots, and if that person is a minority, they must be an Uncle Tom. But assuming every minority must agree with you is fine.

    I soon realized that the vast majority of the time, they weren’t actually keen on the issues at hand, just on saying the right thing to look good.

    All that said, the left wing parties seem to do a better job of running a country than the right-wing ones do. I don’t think Obama was great, but at least he tried to fix things. I don’t think Bill Clinton was great, but at least he didn’t turn the US into a police state. I don’t think Gordon Brown or Tony Blair were great, but they didn’t defund the public health system.

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