My lesson this week…

I’ve been in Washington, D.C. since Wednesday. I came with the Upstate Chamber of Commerce to their bi-annual UCCtoDC trip. It’s where Upstate business leaders travel to D.C. to meet our Congressional Delegation. My expectation was that we would hear from a few Congressmen and learn a little about current policy. While that did happen, it wasn’t my biggest take away.

In addition to Chairman Gowdy, Senators Scott & Graham, we listened to Major Garrett from CBS News talk about his 35 years experience in D.C. and how things have changed, and how they haven’t. He was a great speaker, he was very engaging, and said one of the things that stuck with me the most. “Just because it’s different, doesn’t mean it’s bad.”. I started to think about that and you know, he’s right. That doesn’t mean you have to agree with anything, that just means you shouldn’t instantly discount something because it’s not how you would do it. Take CommonCore Math. We can’t do it because we weren’t taught it. My niece can. It’s easier for her. Once it was explained to me, it made total sense, but just like a foreign language, anything new is different, and that doesn’t mean it’s wrong.

Earlier in the day Chairman Gowdy had talked to us for a while. I have several take aways from him, but the main two or three are these: It’s not as bad in D.C. as the media make you believe. In fact, even Major Garrett and Secretary Sanders said the same. Gowdy pointed out to us that he has dinner almost every night with Senator Scott & Congressman Joe Kennedy. He made it clear that he tries to have friends on both sides, and he does have friends on both sides. He encouraged listening to others and understanding that their point of view may differ, but they are still human beings, something that we all seem to have forgotten. Senator Scott later in the day echoed that sentiment by pointing out that he goes to Bible study with a democratic Senator who he disagrees with about nearly everything, but respects his opinion and knows he is standing up for what he truly believes in. Chairman Gowdy also mentioned that he felt redistricting could help move the country back to the middle, rather than the fringes.

Our final meeting was with Secretary Sarah Sanders. I’ll admit I have never cared for her. I believe the country is headed in the wrong direction under President Trump and I think Secretary Sanders has helped push us that way. I was caught off guard at how my opinion of her would change. The meeting was “off-record” but what I realized and knew  but was reminded of is that she is someone who cares about this country. She just see’s things differently than half of the country. She is a mother. She is a daughter. She is a wife. She reminded us that media was never her thing, this is her first press job. She humanized herself to me. I instantly felt for her and the way she is treated by half of the people in this country. Ironically enough, people who promote tolerance and value their Freedom of Speech, encourage getting her kicked out of restaurants. People who slam Trump, rightfully so, for his treatment of women, criticize her for her looks. I’ve done it myself. I’ll say this about her. She is pretty. She is way prettier than I expected. She is funny. I honestly didn’t think she had a personality at all but she made a lot of funny jokes. She speaks for the President. She made it clear that her job was to speak for him, not to make news, not to give her opinion, but to speak for her. She’s right.

I posted a picture of her and I on Facebook. I knew a few people would complain, however I wasn’t really expecting the backlash from some people. The random comments from people I do not know. The comments insinuating that I could not be a democrat because I was photographed with her. The text saying I was being brain washed.

What kind of country are we living in where you cannot speak to others on the other side of the aisle without being criticized yourself. You cannot hope to understand, or even change others opinions if you won’t talk to them. You also cannot hope to make any impact at all if you start by attacking people.

Everyone who knows me knows that I don’t care if people get mad at me for attending Trump or Hillary events. For taking selfies with, well, anyone. What does bother me is the intolerance of so many people I know. Again, this isn’t about policy positions, it’s about civility. It’s about humanity. It’s about what built our Nation. You cannot hope to have your Congress compromise when you yourself won’t even talk to the other side.

“Politics reflects, it doesn’t lead” is something Chairman Gowdy said on Thursday. He’s exactly right. If you cannot take a picture with someone without friends questioning your character then why on earth would you think Congress would be willing to work with the other side? They would get attacked even more than they do! Gowdy or Scott one made one more great recommendation, have dinner with someone you have nothing in common with a few times a year. You’ll find you actually have a ton in common.

So here’s a challenge from me… go post a selfie with people you don’t agree with… make it known that you are hanging out with people you don’t always agree with. GET OUT OF YOUR BUBBLE. Think for yourself. Change the channel if it’s always on Fox or CNN or MSNBC. Diversify your sources. I’ve always tried to do these things but realize now that few others do. And remember we all get it wrong. A lot. None of us are always right. So consider there’s always a chance the other person is write and you’re not.

Most of all… be kind to each other. Always.

“Do I not destroy my enemies when I make them my friends?”

– President Lincoln


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