Opinion

Amid the shouting, it's surprising how much alike we really are

Posted November 21

With the gigantic schism that's opened between liberals and conservatives in the last few election cycles, it's easy to think the two groups are as alike as pickles and penguins. In reality, we're all a lot closer than we think. And that's good news. (Deseret Photo)

Penguins and pickles would seem to have as much in common as Republicans and Democrats or conservatives and liberals these days, at least judging by recent elections and the amount of bipartisan cooperation by lawmakers.

But if you can get past all the noise and, recently, the jeering and protesting, it's an interesting fact that we've all got a lot more in common than current events suggest.

It reminds me a little of discussions a few years ago about funding research that uses fruit flies, zebra fish, mice and a specific type of worm to figure out human disease. Some politicians and members of the public alike questioned why that's a good bargain. It was answered simply by the truth that most of the human genome is very, very similar to those creatures' genomes and if you want to understand how to solve human problems, these creatures offer answers and guidance that would be unethical to pursue in humans. We're a lot alike once you get past the bug eyes or the slimy skin or the long tail or the slithery stuff.

So it is with people and their political slants, at least when it comes to how they relate to their families and what they most cherish or how they choose to live. That's a fact pointed out for the second consecutive year by a national poll called the American Family Survey, conducted by YouGov for the Deseret News and Brigham Young University's Center for the Study of Elections and Democracy.

The survey found some pretty big disagreements, such as about the fundamental meaning and value of marriage. But it also found that liberals and conservatives live within their families and communities in a very similar fashion, from having dinner together to doing chores or how they raise their kids. The survey found remarkable consistency in the things families do together.

As I was doing interviews for stories on the survey, it was pretty clear that love for one's spouse or children has nothing, really, to do with one's political views. And I'll go out on a limb and say that's a driving force of nearly everything else we do. I have no doubt that liberals and conservatives, Republicans and Democrats in general love their kids and want them to thrive.

I'd be willing to bet that the sorrow of an empty nest or the joy at the birth of a child are not tempered or enhanced one tiny jot because of one's view on who should be president or due to party politics in general. It doesn't make a difference as one buries a beloved parent or child. People of all political persuasions and ideologies want their kids to continue their educations and thrive as adults. They want them to be happy and look back on their childhoods — and their parents — fondly. They want kids to be joyful and responsible and successful. They hope the younger generation will do better, in most cases, than their parents did — and that they'll find love and satisfying work and greater meaning in their lives.

Right now, many on both sides of the recent election are working themselves and each other up, whether they are happy with the results or not. It's been divisive in my family, too. But were you to ask any one of us if the other loves family, wants the best and is loved in return, the answer would be a resounding yes.

Ideological differences should never be able to overpower a shared childhood, lifelong connections and affection and respect.

Despite appearances, we are not pickles and penguins. We are people who, I hope, want the best for ourselves and for others, recognizing that at our cores we will always be more alike than we could ever be different.

Email: lois@deseretnews.com, Twitter: Loisco

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