Saturday, October 09, 2004

Is everyone you know like you?

Last night after the second presidential debate, at one point MSNBC spent a few minutes on a live interview with two Missouri women who we were told were of completely opposite world views, had been brought together by NBC over the last few months, and had gotten to know each other. Afterward Chris Matthews on Hardball/MSNBC asked if the (supposed) "two Americas" dichotomy -- red vs. blue or conservative vs. liberal or whatever -- is perpetuated because "regular Americans" spend their lives only around people who are very much like them. I beg to differ!

My personal experience is that I go to church with people with many different perspectives on and beliefs about the world, politics, etc. At my children's school I meet other parents who, again, have a broad variety of perspectives. I have gotten to know many at-home moms through MOMS Club and have gotten to know some pretty well over the years, counting them as friends, even though we gradually have gotten a sense of each others' approaches to life and sometimes discovered they are very different.

Some of my friends are dyed-in-the-wool Republicans. Democrats. Environmentalists. Gun owners. Beef eaters. Vegans. Baptists. Episcopalians. Catholics. Unitarians. Atheists. Trekkies. No-TV families. Attached parents (attachment parenting). Early weaners and baby schedulers. Homeschoolers. Celebrate-all-day-school-ers. Pro-war. Anti-war. Military families. Hard-to-imagine-the-military families. Adult children of hippies. Adult children of corporate executives, and of working-class parents. At-home moms whose children and mine are similar ages, and who graduated high school within a year of me. Similar at-home moms who were preschool age themselves when I graduated from high school -- making me approximately the age of their mothers! Gulp.

I find it much harder to make broad generalizations when the others in the conversation might not necessarily agree. I have to consider the other perspectives as possible or, perhaps, reasonable -- even if I think it's wrong. That keeps me from closing down and hardening my responses, and that's a good thing, even if it takes more effort.

I have some other thoughts but that's enough for now. Some thoughts connect the above to this being the first time EVER that I've put political signs in my yard. Other thoughts connect the above to the book I just finished: The Bone Woman: A forensic anthropologist's search for truth in the mass graves of Rwanda, Bosnia, Croatia, and Kosovo, by Clea Koff. Hmm.

Does your circle of friends include people who are fairly unlike you?


Zelie said...

I think the people I *choose* to hang out with the most are like me in many ways but there are usually a few differences - different ones for each person of course. But the people I see on a regular basis in church, town, the library, homeschool groups - they are all very different.

Barbara said...

I think that's my experience, too, Zelie. As soon as I wrote the big long note above, I starting thinking of different ways it's not true. The core remains -- that I know, interact with, and spend time with a huge variety of people in my activity circles here in my town. At the same time the people I love to hang out with mostly have very similar perspectives. Yet quite a few of the people in-between, whom I consider friends or with whom I need to get along because we really see a lot of each other, are a very mixed bag of great people.

I've become aware lately of how broad my circles are, how many people I know and how varied they are. Someone once said the most connected person in the world is a mother of elementary-school-age kids. I think I see their point.

Julie D. said...

Most of my friends are like me in key ways, although between various people the "key ways" can vary. They tend to be at least one of: traditional Catholics or strong Christians, middle-of-the road or conservative. However, one of my very best and most delightful friends is a liberal agnostic. I think the quality my friends all have in common is adherence to truth ... if they are honest/truthful about themselves then I can go with their different views. Nothing would be more boring than a world with all of us the same.