Finley and Henderson: Forging friendships across the political divide

Perhaps it’s the bourbon.

But despite our firmly opposite takes on politics and policy in America, we are fast friends, and have been for more than a decade.

Sometimes, that confounds people. And it has angered some, who seem to feel betrayed in this world of political bunkers. How could it be? A committed conservative, and a passionate progressive? Friends?

It’s not always easy. We do argue — sometimes loudly, and always with the pride and certainty of our beliefs.

But we do something else, too, something really important.

We listen. We really listen to each other when we’re debating or arguing. We listen to hear, and to genuinely understand, where the other guy is coming from — not just to figure out what we might want to say back.

And that exercise in listening is the essential element in building and maintaining civil personal relationships with those with whom you disagree.

Before you can get to that point, though, you have to get to know each other. You have to make the effort to understand the experiences and values that shape another person’s outlook.

That’s the objective of the Detroit Regional Chamber’s Civility Project, which the two of us are hosting.

“Detroit can and should be a model of civility for our nation,” says Sandy Baruah, CEO of the chamber.

And by civility here, we mean something specific. We’d never suggest that people not push back when they face systematic violation of their rights or humanity. We’re not proposing the idea of disarming in necessary fights for justice.

We’re talking about how we deal, one-on-one, with someone who comes honestly to a different set of conclusions about politics, policy and the world. This is about how we talk to each other. It’s about how we respect those right in our own community who don’t think…

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