I am fortunate enough, even in this contentious election period to be able to walk through life comfortable in the (incorrect) belief that most people see the world the way I do or that if we were to sit down and exchange ideas that we’d be able to understand one another’s points of view and maybe reach a “I can see why you think that, although I don’t agree” sort of place.
And then, from the most surprising of places, I find that, no, that’s not really true. Today I learned I have a vastly different perspective from someone I figured I was maybe sort of kind of aligned with. And that a group of people I thought of as generally leaning one way also includes people ravenously leaning the other way.
Today’s stumble came in two parts.
First was a Facebook post by an author I like urging people to vote. No problem with that post–we agreed on who the candidate should be so I just nodded my head and kept going. But the response of someone in the comments section? Hoo boy. That was, to me, a ball of crazy talk. I could actually picture this person foaming at the mouth as they wrote their reply to this author and talked about all the reasons they were against that candidate (a good half of which I’m pretty sure couldn’t even come close to being substantiated by reality).
I thought to myself when I read it, but you’re a writer. You have to think to write and you think this? How? How is this possible? (Not the first writer this political season that I’ve questioned. Ran into one at a con last weekend, too.)
So I was sort of reeling from that.
And then I read a description of a book I happen to like, that I think includes a valuable lesson (if you take too much from others and don’t do for yourself, what are you going to do when they decide to quit letting you take from them?) by an author I usually like, and the way this person described that book was so diametrically opposed to how I would describe it that I was shocked. This person also implied that anyone who liked that book was clearly part of the “wrong” side in this election which I found offensive since I’m not.
I can see how this author could characterize the book that way, although I never had and it’s not at all what I took from it, but having them call people out for liking the book and pairing them with voting for someone I would never vote for was a jarring experience.
All of it was an unpleasant reminder that we are all unique and different, with our own perceptions and biases, and even when we have some form of shared history or profession it doesn’t mean we see the world at all the same.
I can see a candidate and be horrified. Someone else sees the one I’d vote for and is equally horrified. And no way one of us will be convinced to the other’s side. None.
And I can read a book one way and someone else can see in it something completely different. And maybe knowing that other perspective will ruin it for one of us, but more likely it’ll just highlight how very, very different people really are.
Normally we can all just keep putzing along in our lives, knowing but not really focusing on those differences.
Unfortunately, I don’t think that’s the case with this current election. No matter who wins in the next few days, I think we’re all going to stumble very hard on those differences over the next year.
And it scares the shit out of me.