An opportunity for understanding
January 30, 2014 9:17 AM Subscribe
A friend and I are far apart politically, but I see a potential opportunity to come closer together. What is the best way to approach this? It is very delicate.
posted by the second sock to Human Relations (33 answers total)
I have a friend, Anna, who is very opposed to any form of compulsory contribution to social safety nets. She unironically refers to tax as theft; when waiting for her tax refund, she will say things like, "I'm waiting for the government to return my family's stolen property to us."
Anna married very young to a member of the armed forces. He is in a branch of the armed forces that does not fight overseas. (Sorry that I have to leave all these keywords out, they are very active online.)
So, although she did not graduate from high school and has not worked outside the home since marriage, she has had a prosperous middle class life for many years, with good health benefits, multiple cars, currently in the process of buying a house, and increasing their family size.
I struggled through those early years alone, without even health care or dental care for a very long time. Anna and I grew up together and she had a rough upbringing, so ultimately I am happy and relieved for her that she is safe and well with a good happy life, since before she got married it was on a path to going very differently.
But it has been hurtful and bewildering to me, that while Anna lives and increases her family on a salary paid by other people's tax money, including mine, that she forcefully rails against social support for others... for people like me. I also don't understand how Anna can refer to tax as theft while living on a salary that is paid entirely by tax money.
Recently, Anna sent out a message about her husband's upcoming retirement from the armed forces. It was about ways that the ways that the government was "screwing them over." Anna described how her husband would not get to truly retire (he will still be in his 30s when he is out) and instead, both of them would have to get jobs. Anna described how it would be difficult for them to live on his lifetime pension, which will be "only" 50% of his current salary. She stated the amount per month that his pension would be, and it was staggering. It comes close to my own current salary.
Anna ended her message with a request for the message recipients to help her protest this, to participate in activism for better benefits for armed forces members and their families.
The entire message made me feel hurt, and if I'm being honest, also quite bitter. But then I realized that it might be the best opportunity we have had so far to talk about these things.
If Anna can openly request help to increase social/governmental support for her own family, if she can see how hard it is when those things are decreased, perhaps this is a time when she would be more open than usual to expanding it a bit, to other people as well. If she can openly request social support for herself, she might be more openminded to a discussion about why it is important for the rest of society too,
I need help with this.
I feel like I am too close to this issue and if I'm being honest, probably also have too much bitterness about it. Anna is also extremely defensive, and very quick to feel attacked and hurt. (I don't blame her for this at all, I think it is largely because of the circumstances she grew up in.) But that means I need advice from someone more objective, who is outside the situation, on the best way to start up this conversation with her. How would you do it?