Can you respect a person but not their opinions or have they become so intertwined as to become indistinguishable?
Having this question posed to me right now – at this time in the world and politics – the answer isn’t quite so black and white. Opinions are like Facebook (bet that’s not what you thought I’d say!), ‘everyone’s got one’. Even people who normally keep their personal outlook to themselves and only use Social Media for keeping up with family and friends, are currently voicing their beliefs on everything from whether it’s okay to post pictures of how many gifts are under the tree, to what color the dress is (black and blue, by the way), to whether guns should be allowed, while immigrants aren’t, and/or vice versa. For me, whether I can separate the person from their view, depends primarily on how well I know the individual, and secondly on how strongly I, myself, feel about the topic their opinion is in regards to.
If it is someone I don’t personally know like a politician, let’s take Trump for example, it’s nearly impossible to separate the man from his strong (& misguided) opinions. Unlike many people I really had no preconceived ideas about Trump when the presidential campaigns began. I don’t watch a lot of TV, and no reality TV at all; I don’t follow business or financial news, so I only truly knew he was a wealthy businessman.
I know to some Americans money is equated with evil, or at the least snobbery, but I happen to know and love some successful businessmen and women, so I didn’t dislike him just because he was rich and white. Now, after months of listening to his insane plans, he could show up at my door with a hundred thousand dollars for the use of starting a Shepherd rescue, with tears in his eyes, holding an abandoned baby and/or kitten, and I’d still dislike him. By the way, I’m not using the term ‘insane’ because I disagree with almost every syllable that comes out of his mouth, but because the ideas he proposes aren’t actionable short of The Expendables and The Avengers coming off the big screen to lend a hand, and even if they could I feel pretty confident that Bruce Banner would channel The Hulk and destroy Trump. I said I don’t watch much TV, I didn’t say movies.
On the other hand, if the opinion belongs to someone I do know and love, or at least like, it’s easier for me to put aside our differences, and just not discuss them. Unless the individual pushes their opinion on me and it’s one I feel strongly about. Then it becomes harder to see past the person’s belief, for the individual I care about, and makes it difficult to maintain the relationship. I can easily forgive someone having different taste in music than I do — but cannot so easily forgive an opinion that I feel is hateful or hurtful to innocence.
So like with politics, I’m neither far right nor far left, but somewhere in the gray. And when forming opinions, we’d all do well to remember Douglas Harlan Ellison’s quote, “You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”
Photo Credit: Kurt Bauschardt/flickr