My mom and I agree on most things, but we don't agree on politics. Ever.
It's bad. Any topic even tangentially related to politics is treated like a live conversational grenade; we tiptoe around it and change the subject. I hold my breath even when a semi-political topic is broached by someone in our vicinity. We agreed years ago that family relationships are too important to shatter on the reefs of today's political dialogue, but it's not easy for either of us to keep quiet.
And then Newtown happened and I simply could not shut up.
Sorrow poured from me like a river, and along with it flowed my feelings around the politics of gun control and the lack of adequate support for the mentally ill. My usual banal suburban Facebook and Google Plus posts ("Here's us with Santa!") were interrupted with a hailstorm of data and calls to action. Normally you call upon your best friend for comfort in tough times, but I didn't call my mother for a week. I missed her terribly.
When the initial rawness abated, I called her with a plan. I told her I was upset and furious about Newtown, and since we surely don't agree on what should be done I proposed we unfriend each other for a while. This way our political posts wouldn't upset each other.
She surprised me by saying, "I agree. Something needs to change."
We've since carefully begun sharing our political views with each other over email. We cite facts and we educate each other along the way. While it's not always easy to keep our emotions in check, we mostly succeed in remaining objective. We realize, tacitly, that the stakes are too high to allow our rival political "teams" to define the plan of attack and to speak for us on this topic. We're speaking to each other from our hearts, from one grieving mother to another, in the genuine hope of preventing another Newtown.
I doubt we'll ever change each others' core philosophies but we are modeling the behavior we want our politicians to mirror instead of mirroring the behavior our politicians model. Open dialogue is the only way forward.
With a Perspective, I'm Alyssa Brennan.
Alyssa Brennan works in the tech industry and is part of a nonpartisanl grassroots group seeking to reduce gun violence.