The day after Ruth Bader Ginsberg died, I joined a StoryCorps One Small Step conversation while sitting in my writing chair, my books and sunshine behind me. I worried that my partner and I would get snarled in an argument. I’ve barely begun to understand what it means to be a conservative and don’t feel equipped to argue the finer points. Besides, my mind goes blank.
The One Small Step Initiative invites people with “different political viewpoints to record their conversation in order to give people a space to get to know each other within a community and remember our common humanity. This represents one small step that may help disrupt the deep political divide.” I have been called a white supremacist, a racist, a Nazi sympathizer, criminally insane when I have offered my perspective. Polarization is not our friend.
StoryCorps told Debra and me to talk about our earliest experience of politics. I remembered watching Kennedy’s inauguration and the riots in the 60s. I knew very few Black people until I taught in NIU’s Chance program while Debra went to diverse schools, pursued theater in New York City, lived in unsafe neighborhoods, and scraped by financially. We swapped stories. I heard the story behind her perspective. She heard mine.
Maybe we need more “can you tell me more?” and less arguing. Maybe we need to push surface politics away and know people are more than their opinions, our friendships more valuable than tossing them in the trash.
I’m Katie Andraski and that’s my perspective.