When I was a young college student, my father and I spent many hours discussing world events and debating politics. My father was a hardline Republican – were he alive today, I have no doubt that he would be a Tea Party affiliate and a vocal Birther. I, on the other hand, was proudly liberal and a newly registered Democrat. Despite our repellent indubitable beliefs our discussions were never angry or ugly. He never berated me or talked down to me. He never told me I was wrong for believing as I did. When I voted for the first time in my state’s Democratic primary, it was my father who offered to drive me to the polls. That type of civility in political discourse is hard to come by these days. Both sides deal with the other with open derision and hostility, and it gets worse every year. Is it possible in this divisive political climate to be completely politically opposed to a person and still like them? How much trust could you put in someone whose beliefs were a photo negative of your own?
I recently needed to reach my orthopedist’s office, and not being able to locate his number amongst my paperwork, I took to the internet. What I saw was, to say the least, surprising. My doctor, as it turns out, is a Republican. And not just any Republican. He is, it appears, one of the GOP’s go-to guys in their war against the Affordable Care Act. He has testified before Congress, written several op-eds for prominent conservative publications and blogs, and is a frequent guest on right-wing radio. This guy is no lightweight. I felt a sinking feeling in my gut, and the more I read, the worse that feeling became.
At that point I began to think to myself, should I find a new doctor? My health was in his hands; my future mobility was dependent upon his care. How fully could I trust this man, whose opinions on the subject of healthcare I so vehemently opposed? But my earlier visits with him had been good ones — he was taking good care of me, and I couldn’t deny that my healing was progressing well under his care. I know many doctors who, upon seeing the extent of my injuries, would not have hesitated to put me under the knife. My doctor, however, had balked at immediately ordering surgery, opting instead to see how my body healed itself under its own power, a decision that turned out to be the right one. On top of all this, I actually liked him. He was a nice guy! Pleasant, good-natured, and he didn’t exude an air of superiority to me the way many doctors can. In the end, I decided to take the high ground: I’ve kept him as my orthopedist, and I haven’t regretted it. The fact that I am almost completely back to my pre-injury self today is testament to his expertise.
Would he be as forgiving of me if he were privy to my political views? I don’t know, but I like to think so.
I have to believe that in this age of political hostility, some of us can put aside our differences for a while, for our own mutual benefit as well as the benefit of others. It’s nice to know that at least I still can.