When I came to Washington DC a couple months ago, I thought I was prepared to talk politics. I had been active in politics for a few years, and I am very familiar with the differences of party lines and opinions. Being somewhat surrounded by people with similar beliefs, I was never really challenged to defend my personal ideologies. However, I was never one to back down from an argument about it either. I have never felt like I needed to downplay my beliefs or keep quiet about my particular party affiliation. On the contrary, I am usually the first one to jump on my soap box and begin my political commentary.
Especially apparent to those around me, I am passionate about politics and policy making. Back home, even those who held different beliefs than my own often times shied away from getting into a dispute with me. Here in DC however, I am surrounded by people who are as passionate about their beliefs as I am my own. More often than not, when I meet someone, I am almost guaranteed they know more about most legislation than I do. I have caught myself feeling very intimidated in conversations and keeping quiet about some of the topics dearest to me.
Being in a city with people who have similar interests as me can be awesome, but it also can be quite difficult. I have not had a conversation with one person without somebody mentioning their political ideologies, whether they are similar to mine or not. It has been a really great experience, not only have my arguments challenged, but also to see how a passion for politics can unite even the most unlikely of people.
What I am learning through all of this is that there are some genuinely good people out there who just have different ideas about the role of government. This does not mean that they are scary, green, one-eyed monsters that many times our political parties make them out to be. Often times they are trying to solve the same problems, just in different ways.
The fact of the matter is most people do not fit into the stereotype their party has tried to force them into. Many times I have sat down with people who have very different political affiliations than me, and we can come to a general consensus on a a variety of key subjects. There is no arguing or anger, it is simply differences of opinions. Now I must admit, this has not been the case with every conversation here in DC. I have had my share of the upsetting ones as well, and I suppose that is to be expected. We all tend to be a bit partial to our own opinions, and of course it gets a little frustrating (to say the least) when someone attempts to prove you wrong.
The world of politics is a major part of my life. My political ideologies are not simply what is on my voter registration card. They are morals and values that are ingrained in my identity. For me, it is not about a political party, it is about my life and my choices. But what I am discovering is that there are millions of other people in this world who feel exactly the same way. Perhaps the most important lesson I have learned over these past few weeks is this: To attack a political platform is to personally attack all the people who ascribe to that platform. Politics stir up so much controversy because the issues are so personal.
To me, stereotyping is one of the most aggravating challenges. I get so upset when people think they know what I believe and why I believe it simply because of my political label. To be fair, even I have most certainly misjudged and unfairly categorized many people that I have crossed paths with throughout my life. Sadly, I have kept some of the kindest people at arms length simply because of their political affiliations. Then on the other hand, people I should never have become friends with, I welcomed with open arms because our voter registration matched. The truth is, people are people, regardless of what they believe or why they believe it. There are good people, bad people, crazy people, and indifferent people on all sides of the aisle. If I would have continued to categorize people the way I have in the past, I would have missed out on some wonderful relationships.
– Miesha S., Star Fellow Spring 2010