Reflecting Allowed

Maha Bali’s blog about education

If You Don’t Talk To Me…Can I Know You?

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I just came out of a Virtually Connecting session at #OpenEd16 and I wanted to follow up on a point I made… I said something like, there are particular Americans here in Egypt with particular politics. So I am not really exposed to those with different politics enough to actually understand how they got there, right? More than that, I am unsure, given that I am Egyptian, Muslim and wear a headscarf, if “those” Americans would ever really talk to me. If they would want to… If there would be a bridge between our cultures that allows us to meet somewhere in the middle. 

I say this, and I remember that I have a friend whose husband is Republican. And I talk to him. Just haven’t talked to him about politics, is all. So obviously I don’t want to generalize that all Republicans would never talk to a Muslim. That would be ridiculous. And horribly unfair.

But I think about it and I wonder if I knew he was a Trump supporter, how I would feel. I can’t even imagine it. And would I want to talk to him?

I think a lot about how we can only really understand and empathize with the other through sustained interaction and dialogue. But really – what if you can’t find common ground to meet on?

And I think about how, locally, here in Egypt, we often can’t even talk politics at the dinner table. Because we can no longer sustain these conversations with people we didn’t even use to consider “other” to us.

I don’t know where I am going with this. But there’s something we (I?) are doing wrong and I don’t know how to fix it or get anywhere near fixing it

2 Comments

  1. As an American living in Canada (dual citizen and still voting) I find myself becoming more and rigid in my attitude towards people who can hold the formerly honorable identity of “Republican”, excuse everything he stands for, and STILL expect to be taken seriously. I often consider myself “conservative” on matters of personal responsibility and respect for the views of others while “progressive” in terms of self-reflection and admitting that I may be wrong and trying to adapt to new social realities.
    That said, the alt-right is not a legitimate political force. They believe in a past that wasn’t how they imagine and won’t be recovered because it benefits not even them. They wittiness forces they are complicit in bringing on themselves, then can’t possibly analyse in a manner that would allow them to improve things for themselves. They blame others who have had nothing to with their own sorry state and spew disrespect like a fire hose on people who request some form of useful discourse.
    And yes, there’s already talk of reconciliation and allowing all theses angry people an outlet but doesn’t that reward them for all the nastiness and fear they have already spread? How do you deal with people who have no sense of personal responsibility and expect privileges they somehow have earned by divine right and bullying?
    For me I’ve found myself in the awful tension of thinking Trump unreasonable for refusing to affirm he will respect the outcome of the election if it goes against him against my refusal to accept him as a legitimate representative. I don’t care if it is considered a “legal” election or not, I don’t accept values that debase the meaning of the country I was born into. Going backwards is not optional.
    As for empathy, my experience is there has to be some meeting place and respect on both sides. I was a “white” youth member of the NAACP in the mid-60’s and any progress made at that time has been swallowed up by racism and that ugly streak of dumb innocence many Americans try to pass off as being friendly. It’s time for us Americans to EARN some respect.
    I voted for Clinton mostly because I couldn’t vote for Trump but also in response to what seems to be a mantra on her being “unlikable.” Having grown up around strong women, the idea of likable-ness seemed like a feature of appreciation that only applied to women.

    • I don’t have to empathize with their values but i think i need to understand how they got there and why they don’t think there’s anything morally wrong with their position. They cannot possibly all be
      A. That ignorant
      B. That mean (or worse)
      I am trying to be polite here because yeah I don’t want to “know” them but at the same time, how will I ever know them? How do you even begin to rebuild a society (talking UK, US, Egypt)

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