Do you have a good friend or close relative with whom you disagree on a major issue (political, personal, cultural)? What’s the issue, and how do you make the relationship work?

I have a very good friend who used to live next door to me, he is married to one of my best friends and we disagree on all things political. It makes for very heated conversations which get diffused when I say something that makes him laugh. Laughter truly is the best medicine.

He is a staunch republican, a war hawk, he did his military training as a Marine though he never went to war, he did boot camp and came back home. I, as most of you know, a progressive and I have always been since I was in elementary school. I majored in International Relations; took courses in American Imperialism, Middle East affairs and politics, SOuth Africa, Japan and Soviet Union, Oil and Strategic relations. The whole messy business of why the American government does what it does and for whom took up much of my last three years at N.Y.U so to say that I am opinionated is perhaps an understatement.

I do not for the most part try to talk politics with him because he gets so angry and defensive about it, but whenever I am visiting with Debbie and he is still awake; he can’t help himself and he will say something that is trending on Fox News and I have to respond if only to defend the poor people, those on welfare and food stamps, who have’t a voice and are the scapegoats for all of the evils of the world as conjured up by Fox News.

I refuse to allow easy and mean-spirited assumptions of others to color my worldview; poverty is so much more complicated than a simple case of laziness and bad choices. My friend refuses to see that, he judges others by his own personal choices and reality which is not fair to the other.

I think that we need to reach further beyond judging, we need to understand and not only sympathize but also empathize.We do not exist in a vacuum, we are all interconnected if it could happen to someone else then it can happen to you. Compassion is a beautiful thing and it should not be handed out in a miserly fashion, it should be handed out generously.