Being Friendly with the Neighbors
Here we are, in a neighborhood full of liberally minded people. If I were to make an assumption about each of my neighbors it would be that every last one of them is politically liberal. I am somewhat more conservative (at least economically speaking). Is it a problem that my neighbors and I disagree on taxes and other policies? No, it is not. My neighbors come in two varieties. They are older people who tend their gardens during the day or they are young couples with kids who are busy with everyday kid activities. When we pass on the street we say hello to each other. When our kids play together we hang out on the lawn talking about what a stupid mess construction has made out of Broadway street. Dealing with and making friends with neighbors involves focusing on common experiences. While our kids build relationships, without the worry of ideological differences, we should be doing the same. I’m sure if we talked in depth about politics we’d end up with a massive neighborhood flame war. Nobody wants that. There is no need to talk about politics or religion. I don’t do it, and neither should anybody else who wants to be comfortable when they go outside to get the mail.
Kids are Kids
Kids don’t care about politics. Kids care about climbing trees, getting dirty, and laughing a lot. Our neighborhood in the 80′s was full of kids. We played together, went to school together, and attended the same church together. We didn’t understand politics, economics, or religion, we understood playing truth or dare and having camp-outs in the backyard. Today, seeing what became of my old neighbors, I see a few who are artsy and very liberal. I know one who became a pastor. Another kid, who I was best friends with for two years, is a gay activist. People fell all over the political and ideological map. We shared so many good times together that no matter what we believe personally we’ll always be friends. We don’t talk about our differences because there is too much shared common awesomeness to worry about the little stuff. I want the same for my kids, to be unencumbered by ideology and to enjoy the things kids are supposed to enjoy.
Getting Along with Parents
In the 80′s My parents made friends with everyone in our neighborhood, church, and tennis club. To this day they remain good friends with a bunch of people who I am sure they have very little politically in common with. Many of their friendships were born out of the common experience of raising kids. They were forced to interact with the neighbors because of us kids. What would have been the use of getting into political arguments with the neighbors if they were still going to have to interact with them the next day? There would have been no sense in that. They talked about all the stuff they had in common with each other. Whenever a political argument did come up, I’m sure it was quickly brushed off as a weird anomaly rather than an endemic problem. I have learned that the same is true with my interactions with other parents. My neighbors and I don’t agree on a few things. But, there is so much more that we do agree on. Raising kids has pretty universal standards. We watch over them, feed them, play with them, and educate them. Getting along with other parents, on a superficial level, is easy because parenting is a safe topic, and it is a conversational gold mine. Over time we might even develop friendships with each other that transcend ideological differences, like my parents did in their day.
We can’t walk around with our noses in the air believing in our own infallibility and expect to make friends. My kids drink organic milk and eat a lot of healthy foods. However, when they are at friends’ homes, they live by the standards imposed by their friends’ parents. Who knows, maybe they eat tofu burgers instead of the real thing. Maybe they love fried chicken and Pringles. If I’m at a neighborhood cookout I’m not going to refuse a tofu burger no matter how weird I think it is. I’ll also take a handful of Pringles if someone puts the can in front of me. When I lived in Mexico I even ate a cricket taco because someone offered it to me. Being a snob never did anybody any good. If my neighbors pray before a meal then my kids had better learn to bow their heads and mumble something that sounds like a prayer. That’s just common courtesy. We don’t have to give up our beliefs to have a little flexibility with people. There is no hope for relationships for people who are not willing to compromise a little. I’m sure my neighbors do the same for me in the interest of keeping neighborhood peace. After all, we’re talking cookouts and play-time, not Palestinian statehood. Leave the serious debate to politicians.
Having peaceful neighborhood relationships is as easy as following the cues of our kids. They don’t care who believes what because they are too busy enjoying themselves to ever ask. Eventually they will discover there are things they disagree about. When that day comes, they will already have built solid friendships that transcend those differences. Politics and religion become background noise. Our own interactions as parents follow a similar pattern. We know we disagree, but we can willfully ignore those disagreements in favor of more neutral topics. We also recognize the value of new experiences by making a few small compromises to show we aren’t snobs. Eventually we’ll discover that our, otherwise weird, neighbors are not so much different. Yeah, they’re political retards. So am I.