What if I told you I’m a libertarian-leaning conservative living in Seattle?
It may surprise you a bit that I’m so open to sharing, considering the quickly changing political climate in our area.
What if I also told you I’m a woman? And I’m mixed race? To top it all off, I am queer.
I often experience complete shock from people when I share my political views with them. But as of late, the shock has shifted to something like disgust from some. The reaction is that it’s as if I am betraying my own identity.
Our recent presidential election has no doubt left many of us shaken to the bone, but I fear that Seattle’s reaction to a Trump presidency is creating more division in a time when we need to come together more than ever.
It has taken years for me to develop my closely held political views, but at the same time, I try to surround myself with people who challenge those views every day. And at many points in my life, these views have changed. It’s the only way I grow as a person.
During the beginning of the election, my wife was really feeling the Bern. My aunt, who is a great mentor to me, actively campaigned for Hillary. I had friends in Seattle who (secretly) voted for Trump or even wrote in other Republican candidates. I have had fascinating conversations with each and every one of them.
What’s funny is that if you were to take away our labels and put all of us in a room together, you would find that our true personal values are quite aligned. We just have different opinions of how to achieve these values as a society — which is exactly why we must engage with each other.
I recently watched an episode of 60 minutes where a number of Trump voters from a small town in Indiana were interviewed. They did not want to see America build a wall. In fact, they were on the program to express anger over a member of their community being deported back to Mexico after building a life and business in the U.S.
These people had different reasons for their vote. And yet, many on the left would immediately dismiss any Trump voter as a racist, homophobic, xenophobic and sexist individual without knowing one thing about the person. And when the political leaders of our city take this stance, the results can be dangerous.
Take the comments from Seattle City Councilmember Kshama Sawant. She said in a public meeting that she doesn’t have Republican politicians as friends, and the room cheered. An elected official with the sworn duty to act in the best interest of her constituents, instead happily dismisses and mocks a group of them.
Is that public service? Is that leadership?
Sawant could have taken that moment to express that while Democrats and Republicans often disagree on many things, we could all certainly take a second look at how we treat our wavering youth. Instead, she drew a line in the sand. Us vs. them. Righteous vs. evil. And her disappointing comments garnered applause from the chamber.
People sometimes look at me and think I am ashamed of who I am or am just plain ignorant. These assumptions are both flat wrong. I am very passionate about the right to marry my wife and have equal access to the law. Which is why I think people with religious convictions should have the same rights to live as they see fit. It doesn’t hurt me, so why should I interfere?
I want more than anything to see women and people of color achieve career and economic freedom, which is why I strongly advocate for less regulation and a more free market where individuals, regardless of their demographic makeup, can take control of their future.
Some people disagree that these are the solutions to these deeply complicated topics. That’s okay. I can still hear them out, and maybe even learn something from them. And maybe, just maybe, we could create a solution through compromise.
It’s mind-boggling that less than a decade ago McCain and Obama competed about who could reach across the aisle more. Now it seems that any deviation from one’s party is a betrayal. To me, that is frightening.
So, this week go find someone with a different political view from you and take them out for coffee. I have a feeling you’ll find more things in common than not. That could be progress to build on.
I would hate to see a city that welcomed me with open arms become just as intolerant as “the other America” it criticizes.