(Art by Hope Ganglolff)
Liberals consider ourselves righteous about all political issues, feeling free to attack and patronize conservatives, whom we view as morally askew. For a long time, I accepted the idea that conservatives were morally corrupt and ignorant: that the only thing separating a conservative from becoming a liberal, was someone explaining to them their flaws and misconceptions. My first real experience with a “dreaded” conservative was during my sophomore year, when a girl transferred into my English class. She talked proudly of her Republican ideas, to the revulsion of the rest of my class. During a discussion of the Black Lives Matter protests, she left the room crying. In that moment ,my class and I felt victorious, sure that we had only pushed her closer toward the correct way of thinking. It took me a while before I looked at that situation with great sadness. That girl transferred schools before the year was over.
I met Katlyn during my junior year of high school. I was impressed by her intelligence and humor, and quickly became friends with her. We ate lunch together, talked about religion, and watched ballet movies together. I assumed she was as liberal as I, but eventually I realized she was conservative. Katelyn kept this hidden. She knew that the vast majority of our school would reject her if they knew. Sometimes we would argue about certain issues, and it would hurt our friendship; we couldn’t agree, and therefore felt an insurmountable divide. But, we continued our friendship with the understanding that certain topics couldn’t be broached. It was due to our mutual respect that our relationship lasted. I knew she wasn’t ignorant or corrupt.
I sometimes wonder if I should be morally opposed to our friendship. On most of the issues Katelyn and I debate, we simply agree to disagree . But on controversies like gay rights, I wonder if I am being true to myself staying friends with her. During my junior year, I dated a girl, and I would talk about it with Katelyn. She treated it like a standard relationship, and for a long time I wondered if I was changing her mind. But, one day in the spring, Katelyn remarked that she would not go to a gay wedding, as she thought it to be morally wrong. I was taken aback. I wondered how I could be friends with someone who thought like that. I expressed this to her ,and she explained that we were both doing the same thing. She excused the fact that I was dating a girl, and I excused the fact she was homophobic.
We’ve never stopped being friends. I’ve learned that to consider yourself an open and accepting person, you have to let people believe ideas opposed to yours. I still sometimes wonder if I am betraying my own morality and should end our friendship, but I don’t think I will. There is no great reward for staying away from everyone with beliefs contrary to your own.
However, I wonder if she is truly the woman I assume her to be… how can she be as empathetic and kind as I see her, and persecute a whole group? How can those two truths be held at the same time? Yet, the intelligent mind can hold two facts at the same time. Perhaps she is empathetic and a homophobe. I don’t know. It is a conundrum that often haunts me. I wonder if she was racist or sexist, would I be as lenient?
I’m still left in a sort of gray area. Morally, I’m almost sure I shouldn’t associate with her as my acceptance of her “must” signify some form of acceptance for her ideals; however, on a human level (a level I base on emotion and impulse) I don’t feel moved to reject her. Ignorance. That seems to be her true crime. Gray… I’m still gray about it.