I grew up in conservative, religious West Michigan and then, of course, moved to a much more liberal Ann Arbor when I went off to school. Those are the only two places that I’ve lived my whole life and thus those two places have shaped my view of politics and my own political identity. And so spending the summer in California was bound to be interesting.
It has been interesting, but not necessarily in the way that I thought it would be. California is stereotyped as being ridiculously liberal, especially in the Bay Area, so I expected that part of the dynamic. What I didn’t expect is that the person from whom I’m renting a room is much more conservative. She watches Fox News, something that I usually never do (though to be fair, she watches other news channels too to be balanced) and will often make political statements, ones that I don’t always agree with. Now I’m largely surrounded by people that I agree with politically, in my family and in my friend groups, so this was new to me. Usually, if someone makes a political statement that I don’t agree with, I keep scrolling. But it’s a lot harder when it’s in person. So I have had to figure out what I should do in these situations. Do I argue a different point? Do I stay silent? Do I add small, equivocating comments to the other’s remarks? And I don’t know if I have figured it out yet, what I should do. I don’t actually think there is one thing that I should do, but rather, it turns into what I want to do in those situations.
I’ve also gotten a chance to spend a lot of time with a friend who has a very different outlook on life than I do, which manifests itself in our political views. We would often go off on adventures on the weekends, which would give us time to just talk. And through those times, I got a chance to have a dialogue about a variety of issues that I never usually talk about because of their inflammatory nature in most social situations. And having a civil conversation about a polarizing issue is so much more rewarding than any arguing that I’ve done on those same issues. Even though neither of us are likely going to change our minds on certain issues, we both come out of the conversation more cognizant of the other’s viewpoint and often having found some shared ground on the issue.
Being out of my natural political habitat is strenuous, especially having my ideas and beliefs challenged, but I think that it’s necessary to both solidify my own beliefs and to have a more civil society, one where having different politics doesn’t mean that we can’t interact in meaningful ways. Who knew that’s what I would get out of coming to California.