Life is about experiences. To be a little more specific, individuals’ lives are often shaped by those individuals’ particular and unique life experiences.
Do you remember that time-tested idiom, “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes?” That’s pretty much what I’m getting at here. We make our own decisions, and cling to our own morals and values largely based on the events and circumstances we have been exposed to in our own lives.
For instance, look at one of those “political climate” maps of the United States — you know, the ones where the states are colored in blue or red depending on the political leaning of the residents. You’ll see many rural regions identify with one another, while the urban and suburban areas seem to cluster under the opposing color. These are absolute generalizations, as we know there are liberal-leaning people in conservative hotbeds, and vice-versa, but it shows a trend.
Political strategists spend their entire careers understanding these maps, studying how they shift or stay the same from one political cycle to the next, determining which factors contributed to those changing demographics and attempting to target a message to the people who could have the biggest impact on the next election.
That, by the way, was one long sentence. I do that sometimes.
But the point remains: people of similar backgrounds, environments, socio-economic classes and interpersonal relationships often tend to share beliefs and global opinions. They traditionally value the same things in faith and politics, and their economic climates are often woven together.
If you are from here — and I’m speaking in very broad terms, obviously — there is a solid chance you are conservative and Christian, and that you have been brought up around an economic platform largely built on agriculture, tourism, real estate and construction. If you are from Washington, for example, you might be more liberal, exposed to more religions and experienced an economy largely based on government, tourism, lawyers and real estate.
Now, there are obviously other factors at play, and it’s silly to try to stereotype someone based on where they grew up or currently live. Parents have huge impacts, as do friends and teachers and coaches. A victim of a crime might feel differently about law-and-order after that incident than before. A born-again believer could obviously see a seismic change in faith. Loss of job, a friendship or romance with someone of another background, a stint in the military, personal loss — all these factors could and do contribute to the lens through which individuals see the world.
And these factors absolutely should weigh in on each individual’s beliefs and outlook on the world. Our thoughts are our thoughts. In a way, they are the most invaluable possessions we hold — impervious to the will and force of others who might try to control or influence every other part of our respective lives if we are strong enough to maintain our convictions.
My thoughts are my thoughts. Your thoughts are your thoughts. We’ve earned them like battle scars through our upbringings, the things we’ve been exposed to and the issues we prioritize as being personally important. And, though it seems to be almost a foreign concept these days, we are in fact allowed to have some nuance in our opinions.
And, in an ideal world, we would be comfortable enough in our own beliefs and thoughts that we would respect and appreciate that other people could have different points of view. But, man, we are far from being there, aren’t we?
Wanting to get our economy going again is not a sign that someone wants hundreds of thousands of people dying in our country from a disease. Wanting people to wear masks and limit day-to-day activity is not a philosophy crafted to destroy our country from within.
Can’t you just take a second and see that maybe both sides have points to be made here? You have your thoughts, whatever they might be, because of who you are, what you’ve been through and what you think will be the most beneficial. So does the other person.
That doesn’t make you right. It also doesn’t make the other person right. It’s just an explanation of perspective.
Calling people “ignorant” or “sheep” or “heartless” or “alarmist” doesn’t fix a single thing. You know what it does? It results in people being called “ignorant” or “sheep” or “heartless” or “alarmist.”
It’s calling people names. It’s silly and juvenile, and results in two sides drawing metaphorical lines in the sand, with absolutely nothing getting accomplished. We’ve developed into a nation that is more intent on “being right” than actually accomplishing anything, which flies in the face of every single thing this United States of America is intended to be.
Treasure your thoughts and opinions. They are all yours. But show a little respect to others along the way.