I swing left but I’m not going to bite your head off…

I wish I could speak for everyone, but we’re human and humans are stupid and like to fight. We each like to think our sides are the vision of the future and in reality we do some good but we’re also both really lame.

A few weeks ago, I looked up a bunch of recent political cartoons on a whim, to see what passive aggression each side was flinging at the other. What I gathered:

Liberals are stupid, limp-wristed crybabies.

Conservatives are bigoted, narrow-minded hypocrites.

By this point, I’ve weeded my Facebook feed of the political zinger memes that just hurt their targets and negatively rile up those that agree with the sting. I’m not interested in alienating people like that.

As a young person, I inevitably don’t have a lot of chill. Yet as a storyteller, I am constantly looking for ways to connect and harmonize, to soothe and encourage, to assure people they deserve to exist peacefully on this earth.

Growing up, I watched how people who wanted exactly what I wanted—to live in peace and be a force for good—were shunned because they didn’t fit the mold that was prescribed for them. A mold that didn’t really fit me, either.

I am terrified of hurting people by trying to hand someone such a mold. Elitism disguised as piety.

Instead, I want to help people find the courage to learn what their own shape is. How they can be flawed and have room to grow, but can be worthy and good, too. How they best personally fit in the spiritual-physical scheme of things and let them grow at their own pace.

The world needs all types. All types of people, all types of viewpoints. I appreciate the conservative lean toward a strong moral foundation and personal responsibility. This is the environment I grew up in. It had it’s drawbacks, but my religious upbringing ultimately brought me to the things I hold closest to my heart, such as the conviction of compassion and courage I always strive for in my work and in my life as a human being. However, I swing more liberal politically because of that desire to help people find their own unique paths to wellness, since the world is a neverending explosion of hues and shades and I’ve found the conservative end of the spectrum a little too prescribed black and white for me to move as freely as I need to.

A guiding quote for me, in the midst of reaching adulthood and coming to terms with the full intensity of a broken world, navigating concepts of race, privilege, economics, propaganda and bias, trying to repair a faith with singed edges while the group I used to hail from accuses me and everyone like me (good ole’ stereotypes) of being stupid precious snowflakes, is this:

When a person tells you that you hurt them, you don’t get to decide that you didn’t. (Louis C. K.)

And I feel like, the least I can do, is listen to those I don’t understand. Set aside my own ego and amplify the voices of the silenced instead of demonizing them for being problematic to my own convenience. Personal accountability and an open ear, that’s what I strive for when I turn my face to the biting winds of politics.

The two zones, if you will, are complementary. “Liberal” is impassioned and energetic and pushing forward a mile a minute—which runs the risk of spiraling out of control. “Conservative” is sturdy and quiet (generally)—which runs the risk of planting too deep and refusing to move. Push and pull, movement and stability. We need both to check the other. Not assign “evil” to one and applaud yourself for being the epitome of good sense.

Fear disguises itself as common sense, as safety, as dignity. It plays into self-preservation and easy justification. It attaches itself to your pride, draws out your wrath and envy as claws to protect its root and increase its hold. It is noisy and insistent, and highly infectious. It tells you you look stupid or naive or problematic for standing up to it. It will coax you into anger, into closed doors and isolation and inactivity. It will try to exhaust you.

It’s easy to entertain, but it will drown you if it can. It will smother everything good and giving in you to benign, bitter charcoal; to convenience, apathy, destructive anger, to division, to silence.

So quit demonizing each other. No more pompous hand wavin’ “Just sayin’!” tones and tactics (see also: Facebook politics). It’s cheap negativity. Striking a dog, gluing glitter on a leech and declaring it useful. Who has time or energy for that?

Instead, take up your compassion, your courage, your ability to count to ten and take a breath. Bring your ears and leave your stingers and bear traps at the door. Look to your loved ones as allies, not enemies, even when you don’t agree on everything. Go outside, make new friends, admire a dog, call your parents.

The world can be a bleak, cruel, divisive place, but not absolutely every bit of it is out to get you. Find the good, grab ahold, amplify it.

We each bring something unique to the table and we need each other.