by Haley Atkinson
Over Easter I was able to spend the weekend with my grandparents. This interaction is not commonplace in my life, and thus seems worth noting. They are both in their 80s, live in Wenatchee and are truly the most hospitable people you will ever meet. Over the course of the weekend we shared our stories, their lessons from the past and my hopes for the future. In hearing their experiences and beliefs, I was forced to respectfully consider our differences. Through this I gained an invaluable lesson.
I would encourage you, over the next couple weeks or the course of the summer, to seek a relationship with a person you don’t typically interact with. Spend time with someone sitting on the other side of the fence and listen.
We are often told to shy away from politics. This is especially true when there is a known disagreement, and you’re family. Yet when we do, we gain an essential aspect of political thought, and a life principle – perspective. I am writing this now from my grandpa’s office looking at the family portraits above his desk, the photographs of dams along the wall and an image of President Barack Obama and the democratic party leaders signing a document with text reading, “these people are responsible for bankrupting the U.S.A. by passing the health care bill” in all caps. He is a World War II veteran and remains active politically.
Since the fall of my freshman year I have been dreading the “Grandpa, I’m a peace studies major” conversation (which happened over dinner, while he was wearing his vest with an American flag and “Go Army” pins). That day, however, as he started telling me about the Republican Party mailer he received the other day, I engaged. Not only did I listen and comment, but I also brought up immigration reform. From there we began talking about environmentalism, education and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. In listening to what he and my grandma had to say, I came to realize the fallacies in my opinions. He described watching a recent environmental protest.
“They were so dirty, dreaded hair, no showers, ripped up clothes, just the worst. They were telling the people they need to stop driving; that we have to ride our bikes everywhere. But when they were asked how they got to Washington, D.C. from California they all drove.”
My grandma chimes in, “You have to live out what you believe, all the time, not just when it’s convenient.”
I am nearly certain they saw this on Fox News, but I disregarded this information and listened to what they were saying, and they were right. If we are going to seek radical change, we had better start making those changes holistically in our own lives.
So students of Whitworth I charge you, eat a meal with some folks who have a background significantly different from your own. Listen to their story. Learn what has brought them to their ideological framework. Do not disregard all or part of what they are saying; rather be receptive gleaning from it what you can. You need not come to agreement, but in putting a face to our perceived opposition we can all learn the line dividing us isn’t that thick.