Political difference is OK in friendships

By Morgan Harlan | Staff Writer

Hailing from the Pacific Northwest corner of the United States, I was terrified and ill prepared for my attendance at a private Baptist university in Texas. During my senior year of high school, my favorite hobby was silently judging people wearing “Make America Great Again” hats. Plus, I had never read The Bible … which was further inadequate preparation for my future Baptist higher education. (In retrospect, maybe Texas wasn’t the most logical college destination.)

I was randomly matched with my freshman roommate. At first glance, the differences between my roommate and I seemed to grossly outweigh our similarities. One of us is a Christian, and the other is a militant agnostic. One of us grew up loving the Bush family, and the other idolized the Obama’s. One of us went to a small private high school in Texas, and the other attended a large public high school in Washington state. One of us identifies as pro-life and the other as pro-choice.

The few first months of my freshman year at Baylor were some of the most miserable in my life. I felt out of place, judged for my beliefs and like I had made a horrible mistake in my college choice.

My roommate took it upon herself to be my support system during this difficult transition of freshman year. She taught me how to properly two-step, showed me the wonders of good queso, explained the underrated beauty of the word y’all and showed me everything about Texas culture.

Two years later, we are still roommates and have become seemingly inseparable best friends. I spend Thanksgiving with her family, and she joined mine for our Christmas vacation. We love binge watching Harry Potter while eating Ben and Jerry’s ice cream and blasting country music on road trips. I send her my favorite Joe Biden and Obama memes, and she usually humors me with a laugh.

Prior to freshman year, the two of us had never met someone so polar opposite from our beliefs. Through these different perspectives, we have found the deepest valley of friendship and understanding. She taught me The Bible, and I explained why I support Planned Parenthood. We tried to understand one another before we imposed judgement or disbelief. Ultimately, we chose to search for the things that brought us together instead of the things that pulled us apart.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the late Justice Antonin Scalia are a famous example of friends putting political opinions aside. Ginsburg, a champion for the left and women’s rights activist, often disagreed with Scalia’s strictly conservative ideology. The two colleagues wrote scathing dissents towards one another’s opinions and were at opposite political ends of the Supreme Court bench. In spite of their politics, they vacationed, shared meals, attended the opera together and had a very strong friendship.

The bottom line is, Republicans are not selfish racists. Democrats are not spineless communists. These stereotypes are just some of the negative preconceived notions that have become the basis of our polarized political environment. If we choose to search for our differences instead of searching for our common ground, there will be no progress towards reaching an agreement.

If two 20-year-old women with no political experience can have differing political ideologies under the same roof, then surely the experienced representatives of the United States congress can manage to find commonalities too.

I urge you to find and talk to someone with different opinions than yourself. Who knows? You might just find your future best friend.