Recently I wrote a blog post of an encounter with a Conservative Republican who I felt was disparaging the refugees at our southern border seeking asylum. Well, today he sought me out at the gym, and we continued in conversation.
But first a recap. I wrote the blog post about fronting a Republican man at the gym who I felt was disparaging immigrants with Trump's tonality titled "My confrontation with a Republican praising Trump ‘dumping’ asylum seekers on sanctuary cities." You may want to read it before continuing but I ended with the following.
During the entire conversation I was firm but not rude nor did I raise my voice. My approach elicited a similar behavior from the Republican. It was clear that no one has never confronted him in the manner that I did. I created an environment where he deservedly was on the defensive. But most importantly I did not allow an escalation into a shouting match. While he spoke, I listened intently, and in this case, I did not have to ask him to reciprocate the behavior. In other confrontations, I have had to ask for the same respect in listening that I afforded.
Look, I am sure I did not change this Republican's basal way of being. But I do know I planted seeds that any thinking human being however ideologically compromised will have cemented in their brains whether they acknowledge it or not.
After going back and forth for about twenty minutes we shook hands, he thanked me. I wondered if he realized he did that. Anyway, I did not react. I gave him a back slap, we smiled and then I took off.
As I agonized during my last minute or so on the elliptical machine at the gym, I felt a tap on my hand. I close my eyes as I do strenuous aerobic exercises to "sleep with the pain" most of the times. I was a bit startled. It was the Conservative Republican man I had fronted a few days earlier. To be clear, we ended the discussion amicably but many times that is superficial (not with me I assure you), so I was genuinely shocked.
"You know I am going to turn you into a Conservative, right?" he said jokingly. "I will."
"No, but I will make you a Progressive." I joked. "And you won't even know when it happens."
I then started telling him that the problem has very little to do with us as individuals but with those trying to make that we all think differently as a weapon. He agreed and then went into draining all of Washington.
Again, it was a great conversation with me talking about the issues and forms of engagement you read on my blogs. Progress is not going to come from some savior or charismatic leader. It is going to be from each of us biting the bullet a forcing the conversation and stressing our commonality. Civil discourse is so much more rewarding than the converse. It is not easy when one has belief's diametrically opposed to yours, but even those pale in comparison to our human commonality.