Dear Haverfriend: All My Friends are Graduating and Building Bridges Across Political Difference

Hey, everyone! I am a real Haverford student and I have strong opinions about your life. Just remember that I can’t substitute for professional advice because I am an undergrad and consequently I know nothing.

Dear Haverfriend,

I’m a junior, but most of my best friends are seniors. They’re all graduating in a few weeks, and I still have a year left here. How does a soon-to-be senior make new friends?

Anonymous

Dear Anon,

I know, right? Why do they have to leave us? My advice to you is to try and join a relatively low key club or activity that fits into your schedule senior year to meet some new people. Also, keep in touch with your senior friends! They will miss you lots and want to hear from you, and more likely than not, some of them will end up settling in the Philly area so they will be close by.

Dear Haverfriend,

I’m about to say something shocking: I’m a Republican. I often feel like my friends and classmates dismiss my party unfairly and that all Republicans are constantly labeled as racist, sexist, immigrant haters (we’re not!). I hate feeling like I can’t speak my mind, but I don’t want to be accused of being racist just for expressing a political opinion. What do I do?

Sincerely,

Closet Conservative

Dear Closet Conservative,

WHAT. Excuse me for a moment while I sharpen my stake.

Just kidding. My advice to you today comes in three parts:

  1. It’s pretty demoralizing to feel like everyone is making broad generalizations about you, and like no one has your back. I think everyone has felt that way at some point, at different times and in different contexts, and we all can remember how terrible that feels. Keeping this in mind, please try to remember that the political is always personal; every one of your classmates comes to discussion from their own unique perspective and will react to your statements differently based on that. Sometimes it feels like we’re making a neutral statement when we’re really not, and it’s our responsibility to listen carefully to how other people respond to the things we say even if we don’t ultimately agree with their conclusions.
  2. That being said, if you’re in a casual situation where a friend says something simple like, “All Republicans hate women”, then the response is equally simple. “Wow, that’s a really strong statement”, you might say, or, “I don’t think that’s really true”. If they insist, I would encourage you to continue the discussion with them rather than walk away, which brings me to my next point…
  3. Be specific. Whenever possible, debate policy, not ideology. This will require some research on your part, but so much the better. For example: you could debate large, conceptual topics like whether or not the United States operates on a meritocracy, OR, you could debate the benefits and drawbacks of different models for graduated tax rates. I’m only being a little facetious; while I think ideological discussions are extremely important, I think we as a culture do not have enough conversation about specific policies. Policy is sometimes a more feasible place than ideology to build bridges across difference.

Good luck building bridges!

That’s it for this week! If you have a question or are in need of advice, use the form below to submit something for next week’s column.

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