Op-Ed

With respect, faith conservative-liberal friendships survive

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I want to thank the Herald-leader for selecting me as a community columnist. Two of the preferred criteria for selection were being conservative and a woman. I thought, well, I do fit both, so why not?

My hope is that my columns will stir conversations between conservatives and liberals.

I have been a conservative all my voting life, even when I didn’t understand what that really meant. It is the way my father and mother voted, so it was the way I voted. My family (excluding my extended family) all are conservatives.

We have raised our children — well, most of them — as conservatives. Fortunately, my three oldest grandchildren are conservatives, the rest are way too young to understand.

I got involved with the Republican Party when living in West Virginia. I found that working in the world of nonprofit social services typically meant “liberalism.” Consequently, I didn’t have many conservative friends, but I had many liberal friends.

I felt lucky that I was able to cross both sides and still conduct my work, have fun and have friends.

Even in today’s political climate, where there is a considerable amount of hate and violence surrounding politics, I have found that I still have many friends on the left. In fact, some of them are considered best friends — they know who they are.

I have also developed a very solid group of friends on the right who are also considered best friends. I am very lucky.

There are times when both sides are even involved in the same events.

What makes this work? Faith and respect. Faith in God. Faith in friends and faith that our friendships will far outweigh our political leanings. Respect for one another; respect that our friends’ beliefs are as true to them as mine are to me.

I do get angry when I read some of the writings that vilify our state leaders, knowing full well that the opinions bend towards the left. I also get angry when I hear someone from the right say vile things. But I know that this is politics.

If one gets involved in politics, then be prepared to do and see some things that you would normally not do or see.

I have never been involved in a protest, nor do I intend to. I have witnessed the group-think of a protest assembly and mostly it turns out poorly.

I remember as a teenager watching Martin Luther King Jr.’s protests on TV. I was amazed at the amount of pure integrity King and his followers maintained when they were shouted at, kicked, sprayed with hoses, etc.

I remember watching the March on Washington. I remember my dad saying, “He’s going to get killed.” And sadly, he was.

There used to be a bridge between conservatives and liberals where one could walk either way across the bridge and not feel ashamed. Today, so many of my conservative friends remain silent about their views to avoid being harassed or asked to leave an event.

The bridge has a crack in it. We need to mend that crack and make the bridge strong again.

I will always give my friends on the left a chance to speak, to hold views different from mine, to question me and my beliefs, and yet still be my friends. I know they will do the same for me.

Our bridge is strong. This is what America is about, and therefore why America is and always will be the very best country on Earth.

Reach Barbara A. Ellerbrook of Lexington at baellerbrook@twc.com.

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