Growing up in the 1950’s, my family was always been open to discussing our values and thinking in regards to political decisions. The same has been true for most of my adult life living in southern Oregon, as well as Montana. I’ve always been able to talk with friends, neighbors, and the occasional acquaintance about difficult political decisions.
When my husband and I moved to Idaho in 2007, it never occurred to us that the culture would be so much different here. After all, we had lived in Montana, another red state, for years.
So we were caught off guard in Idaho when we realized the communication culture was so different from what we were used to. Like any newcomers, we knew to approach political conversations carefully. We didn’t even begin to approach the subject with others until well into our second year, after we had gotten to got to know our neighbors and had established friendships around town. So we were surprised by the closed attitude towards even the most gentle of political comments or questions.
Today, after living in Idaho for twelve years, that hasn’t changed. For example, during a car trip with a good friend, we passed a homeless person. I said something about needing to address the homeless problem. My friend responded with a curt, “Well you’re a better Christian than me, but I’m still voting Republican like always.” End of conversation. To this day I don’t understand how or why she equates Christian values with agnostic political parties.
What’s most perplexing to me is that though Idahoans I know won’t talk about values and politics, they openly live and demonstrate their values. They volunteer to help their neighbors without fail. They will give you the shirt off their back if you have need. They will help shovel snow off roofs and sidewalks just because they can.
Idaho has a higher than average rate of volunteerism and donations to disaster victims. And yes, they are appalled by many of President Trump’s actions such as child separation, abandoning trade deals, and general mistreatment of those less fortunate than him. Yet with forgiveness and a set jaw, they continue to vote Republican.
My Christian faith has taught me that before I can understand someone, I must first love them. Because understanding has to be built on a foundation of respect for their humanity. After all, how can you really know someone if you are looking down on them?
I still don’t understand my fellow Idaho citizens, but I can honestly say that I love them. Maybe another twelve years will help.
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