Bridging the Divide: Forging Friendships in an Increasingly Polarized World

Bridging the Divide: Forging Friendships in an Increasingly Polarized World

I apologize in advance to all of the liberal readers for this article. But it needs to be said. Please understand that this is coming from someone who is a bleeding-heart liberal herself.

Last month I got back from a 9-day women’s only packaged tour to Uzbekistan. I don’t ever go on these packaged tours. I’m privileged and lucky enough to travel for one of my two jobs and I’m able to really explore a new country on my own. But a bunch of serendipitous events led me to go on a pre-planned tour comprising only women to Uzbek.

Apart from the sheer joy of tracing the old Silk Road by going to Tashkent, Khiva, Bukhara, and Samarkand – I also made four women friends for life.

And none of these women are liberal.

My first instinct was to pull away from them when I realized their political inclination. But the more I interacted with them – the more I realized that every single one of them is conservative for a reason. The reasons are personal or professional to them and where they are in their lives at this moment. Despite ‘understanding’ I still tried – at every stage – to explain to them why their perspectives are extremely problematic to me. And while I think I was able to connect with at least two of the women, I’m not really sure if I did or not.

BUT…even as I tortured myself on how I was bonding with a group of women whose ideology differed so completely from mine…I finally gave up. And decided to go with the flow and see what came out of it.

And the result of my letting go of my preconceived notions about people from the opposite ends of the political and ideological spectrum was that I discovered that these women were/are extremely sensitive, caring, loving, and mothering. They adore their friends (including me whom they had only just met). They care about their families, their neighborhoods, their cities, and, most of all, their country. They LOVE genuinely and with their whole entire hearts.

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And most of all – THEY LIVE PASSIONATELY. They have fun.

Over the past couple of years, I’ve noticed that most of my liberal friends don’t have fun anymore. Maybe the world is sucky enough that none of us should be having fun. But, unfortunately, that’s not how the process of living works. Between cancel culture and wokeness – all of which are right and essential – I find that liberals have confused being right with righteousness. And they have gotten/are self-righteous about EVERYTHING.

And I am sorry to say – at least within my own circle – LIBERALS HAVE BECOME A BUNCH OF CRASHING BORES. Again – I speak WRT my circle. But I feel solid enough to extrapolate that into a larger worldview.

Those 9 days with women diametrically opposite to me showed me that people are unique. That people can have different perspectives – rightly or wrongly – but we can still find common ground. That my being friends with conservative friends will not affect my liberal state of mind and neither will I apologize for having these conservative friends in my life. I fell head-over-heels in LOVE these women and I will try – without judgment – to understand their political perspective as much as I hope that I can make them understand mine.

In the meantime – I will continue to try and bridge the gap in my own small way in what has become an increasingly divisive world.

Sorry, not sorry, for this new awakening inside me.



About the Author

Roopa Swaminathan - The Messy Optimist

Hi...I'm Roopa. I'm also a messy optimist! I'm an academic-cum-artist. I'm a writer, filmmaker and professor of creative writing. Academically, I've a Double Masters and a Phd read more...

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