Living in a Red State with a Blue State of Mind

A Swing State Coming of Age Story

My childhood and coming of age story isn’t what I would call normal in comparison to my peers. My mother raised me to be a good, Presbyterian Christian. My father raised me to be a skeptical atheist. My parents, married now for 30 years, could be deemed an example of opposites attract or two sides of the same coin. Except they aren’t so much two sides of the same coin as completely separate currencies.

While my parents don’t necessarily align with one political party over another, their differing views gave me insight into both more conservative and more liberal thought processes. Not only was I physically living in a swing state, but I was raised with a swing state sort of mind. When I was in high school, my politics swayed more towards moderate conservative. I attempted to ride the line between conservative and liberal to blend in with my peers and family.

The early years of my politics were defined by a red(ish) state of mind, but, just like any swing state, that quickly changed.

My Political Influences

Growing up in Iowa, a largely rural, conservative state, it is easy to fall in line with the political norm rather than challenge the status quo. Yet, the older I got, the more of the world I experienced, the more I listened and learned from the people around me, the easier it was for me to shape my own political opinions. I began reading articles and books, watching documentaries and even House and Senate debates. I purposefully sought out information, knowing that knowledge is power. And if I am going to have an opinion on a political issue, I want it to be as powerful as possible.

My mom often asks me how and why I became so much more politically vocal after going to college. The answer is simple: I learned to listen. I’ve been so fortunate to have met amazing friends from different states, different countries, and different walks of life. At first, I listened because I knew too little to contribute to these larger social and political conversations. When I realized how little I truly knew, I hung on their every word, desperate to know more.

You may be thinking that my opinions on politics are not my own, merely adopted views from others. We often take on traits and mannerisms of important people in our lives because we want to emulate them. Why would it be any different when it comes to politics? Do you like the Green Bay Packers because of their win/loss record and team line up, or because you grew up with parents who watched their games every week and hung memorabilia on your basement walls?

The difference here is that I didn’t get to where I am today because I refused to ask questions. I didn’t accept the fact that I should love the Green Bay Packers because the people I know do. I walked into Viking territory, was welcomed with open arms, and decided myself which team was the right fit for me.

Redefining Relationships Post-Trump

We are officially 1-year post-Trump’s inauguration, and the line between political parties continues to fracture and widen. I am lucky to live in Des Moines, a blue city in a blue county. Here, I blend in. But what do you do when people you love, people in your own family, sit across from you along the great political divide and continue to praise Trump and his actions?

There are cries on the internet of people saying Trump voters and supporters are unforgivable and unredeemable. But, I also know people who voted for Trump and regret it. Meeting and talking with these people, understanding their motives, and why they voted the way they did has led to some of the most enriching and positive conversations I’ve had since Trump announced his candidacy. Yet I know many people who voted for and still support Trump today. For a year now I have struggled with how to redefine these relationships.

Here’s what I’ve discovered:

You can love someone and dislike their politics.

When someone has been a part of your life since infancy or childhood, you can’t, and don’t want to, cut ties because of who they vote for and support. At the end of the day, we are all human, and we all need to treat each other with decency and respect. If we close ourselves off to people who see the world differently than we do, we are doing ourselves a disservice. We isolate ourselves and create a wider rift, something this political climate is striving to do.

It’s important to remember that people are not just a sum of their political beliefs.

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