How To Love Your Political Opponent As You Love Yourself
“Love your neighbor as you love yourself,” the foundation of Judaism and the basis of the Golden Rule is not too hard to imagine in a vacuum or even in real life if you’re neighbor’s a nice guy. But what if your neighbor is your political opponent? How could could you possibly love your political opponent as you love yourself? He’s either a “stupid” and “evil” Liberal or a “racist” and “heartless” Conservative.
Thirteen days into the new administration, and I think we’ve reached a new low in terms of people screaming past each other online. To be clear: there are bad people in the world. There are crazy people in the world. They exist on both sides of the aisle, but in my opinion, most people are good people and well-meaning people who want similar things in life: a safe and prosperous world where working hard leads to success and where society doesn’t swallow you whole if you fall on hard times.
Not only do we have different visions in how to reach those shared goals, which often leads to divisiveness, where are facing an even greater challenge these days. We have two different versions of reality being espoused by the media which is leading people to react in VERY different ways. And the problem is, each side is convinced that their news outlets are the “real” news outlets and the other side’s news is the fake news.
If your news is leading you to believe that Trump is destroying the country, seeing anyone who is not as alarmed as you are clearly means they are heartless people who support a fascist regime. But if your news is leading you to believe that Trump is improving the country, seeing anyone who is getting alarmed that Trump is a fascist is clearly out of their minds and overreacting.
I do a lot of listening to try to understand where both sides are coming from and this is what I learned these last couple weeks:
Donald Trump is: A fascist whose his father was in the KKK, he surrounds himself with the alt-right, he just banned Muslims because he’s racist, his ban didn’t include countries where he does business, his Holocaust statement removed Jews because he’s an anti-Semite
Donald Trump is: A patriot whose father donated to synagogues, he surrounds himself with Orthodox Jews, he halted immigration in order to protect our country, his ban simply comes from Obama’s list, a child of a Holocaust Survivor wrote the Holocaust statement and didn’t mention Jews because it was so obvious it was about them
Whatever news you’re listening to, you are likely appalled that I could have even made a column which includes the views of the opposing side because those views are so completely preposterous. But the problem is, half the country is on that side! Half the country has read articles and watched videos which they have deemed reliable and true which told them the above information.
Now you might conclude that half of the country is stupid and evil or heartless and racist, but try another conclusion. Most people are trying their best. You know you’re trying your best to make sense of the news that comes across your screen – to treat it with the appropriate response (these days either horrification or elation). Give your neighbor the benefit of the doubt that he or she is doing the same. Love your political opponent as you love yourself.
If you think the country is doing great or about to implode, don’t stop doing whatever it is you’re doing to make sure your side wins next time. But do watch how you talk about your opponents and do consider how you talk to them. What would really make America great again is everyone treating one other the way they’d want to be treated.
Allison is the Founder and Director of Jew in the City. Please find her full bio here.