I am a huge fan of “Hamilton,” the hit show that has taken Broadway and America by storm, and one of my favorite scenes is when Thomas Jefferson and Alexander Hamilton are dueling it out in cabinet debates.
These debates are famously brutal with a lot of different opinions that need to be considered in deciding the future for the young country. Jefferson and Hamilton did not often agree, as one was from the North and a Federalist believing in a large national government and the other, being an anti-federalist southerner, believed that power should be left to the states.
The brilliant Lin-Manuel Miranda, writer and star of the show, wrote the entire musical as a hip hop play incorporating elements of rap and hip hop, but also included heart-wrenching ballads and songs that resemble 60s-era British pop music. Miranda wrote the cabinet debate scenes as a rap battle over foreign and domestic policies between the two men.
It sounds silly, but that’s theater.
While the real-life Jefferson and Hamilton fiercely disagreed with each other, they had a tremendous respect for each other and worked together frequently, creating compromises on George Washington’s cabinet.
This weekend, I went to the Conservative Political Action Conference and listen to talks and network with people from all kinds of organizations. I had the opportunity to see big names including Carly Fiorina, Kellyanne Conway, Ted Cruz, Betsy DeVos, Mike Pence, and the man himself, President Donald Trump. I also got the pleasure of seeing Andrew Bremberg, Franciscan alumnus and director of the White House Domestic Policy Council.
One group I encountered was called “Atheist Voters.”
This was striking to me because typically, atheists lean more towards the left side of the aisle, so I decided to talk to one of the representatives from the group. I didn’t agree with about 65 percent of the things he said, such as pulling God out of schools, abortion and legalizing gay marriage, but I did agree with what he said concerning big government, spending and foreign policy.
After listening to him for a few minutes, I told him I was Christian and I let him know that I respected him for sharing his opinion with me. I asked him a few questions and answered the questions that he had for me as well.
I was certainly pleased to hear why he believed the things he believed and made a note to pray for him. We didn’t need to attack each other and I graciously shook his hand before I walked to the next booth.
In today’s world, we have lost the art of civil discussion. I don’t often share political posts on social media, but I have been called many things for expressing my opinion the few times I have, such as homophobic, anti-feminist and Islamophobic. Some people have unfriended me over one post.
But typically, when I post something about my opinion, it’s an invitation to have a discussion on the issue. Am I open to changing my opinion? Not usually, but I am open to hearing what others have to say on the topic.
I want to make something very clear to those who get very heated about political discussions: just because I disagree with you does not mean that I hate you.
Most people are intelligent and form their various opinions through their experiences with others and through media they consume. When we allow ourselves to have a conversation with them, these things come to light.
I’ll bet if we did a poll of everyone on the Franciscan campus, everybody would have somebody they love whom they disagree with on several issues. For me, some members of my extended family and I don’t agree on certain policies, but I don’t love them any less because of it.
Just because some people’s opinions are different than mine does not strip them of their dignity. It doesn’t mean that I consider them evil and it does not mean I have to send a passive aggressive comment to their posts and quickly unfriend them before they respond.
We as a society need to relearn the art of debating without name calling and hate speech. If we don’t learn how to have a civil discussion, how are we ever supposed to come to agreements that will ultimately improve lives like Jefferson and Hamilton did.
This message something that all need to know; Republicans and Democrats, Protestants and Catholics, Marvel fans and DC fans, the Patriots and every other team in the NFL.
In order to do that, we have to earn the self-discipline to remain calm when insults arise and be able to communicate that even though we disagree, we still respect and acknowledge their opinion. Above all, we have to be ready to love and see people as our creator sees them.