Republicans are People Too

By Marcia Miller

Those of you who know me would not be surprised to hear that I voted for President Obama in the election and that I was thrilled with his re-election last Tuesday. As I sat in front of my TV I cheered with the revelers in Chicago and around the country as we waited to hear the President’s acceptance speech.

This year however I had other emotions very close to the surface that surprised me in their intensity and their proximity to my joyfulness—they were sadness and fear. Despite “my” win I saw others that night who were deeply disappointed by the outcome and are likely afraid for the future of our country. We saw the shock and disappointment of their loss on their faces and in their demeanor as they waited for Romney to offer his concession speech. I’ve been where Romney’s crowd was last Tuesday night after most of the elections in my life; I know what that sorrow feels like. What saddens and scares me now is that the conversation is not about how we can work together serve the needs of our country; it’s about who is right and who is wrong, who is chosen by God, or even who is evil. At this point in my life I am tired of winners and losers and the fight we endure to be on top for awhile until the tide turns and the other group gets their way. And, I don’t want to make enemies of the people who disagree with me although I am encouraged to do so by many elements in our culture. I know what that feels like, and it is the antithesis of what I want running through my body, mind and heart. I’m sad and worried that those of us who disagree politically can’t talk to each other anymore—sometimes even to the people in our own families.

As I have stayed with this sadness it is shifting into inspiration and commitment to action. To start, I am writing down my ideas because it feels as though I must. I’m in the middle of an intense, 5-day training as I write this and I’m getting up early and staying up later than I would normally would because I want to be true to something inside myself. Based on the teachings of yoga and what I have learned from studying nonviolent communication (NVC) for many years, we all share the same deep human needs and values including (but not limited to) safety, nourishment of all kinds, love, connection, belonging and to matter to those around us. These needs connect us to each other even though the individual strategies we use to meet and fulfill these needs may differ widely. What if our political conversations began with investigating what we can agree on? What if we started from a position of respect and appreciation for each other? What if we all committed to listen just a little more to each other? What if we were really curious about each other, especially people with whom we disagree? What if we trained ourselves in the skills that would help us do that?

People who voted for Romney are not evil and they are not crazy as some on the left would have us think. Likely they knew exactly what they were doing and what they wanted when they voted as they did. What are the details of their lives that made this the best choice for them? What are their stories? Why aren’t we more curious instead of being furious? Why aren’t they?

This year I am committed to helping to create a forum where people of differing views can come together and learn skills that will promote better listening and sharing. Perhaps we could call ourselves “Citizens Connecting.” Do you remember the citizen diplomacy movement in the 70s and 80s? When the leaders of the United States and the Soviet Union were not speaking to each other and continuously threatened war against each other, individual citizens decided to start traveling between our two countries to meet people, to learn about each other’s lives and to share the commonalties we all have. Their motto, “When the citizens lead, the leaders will eventually follow,” makes even more sense today.

Stay tuned for more information, or help me create our first event.