to the friends I disagree with, I’m sorry

Illustration: Daryl Cagle 

Disclaimer: This is not a political argument, for once.

Dear friends who disagree with me and (probably) are sick of my political crusading,

Living in Mississippi, I am acutely aware of the fact that a high number of my friends have a very different perception and evaluation of the world around us. When it comes to politics, most of my life has been spent keeping my views quiet, only arguing my point when directly asked or otherwise provoked. That, obviously, has changed as I’ve gotten older. The switch came from one thing: paying attention. Keeping up with national news (and doing my best with global) opened my eyes to a world of corruption, injustice, and incompetence lying just under the surface of my pretty, privileged life. Becoming privy to this information inspired me and reoriented my entire worldview.

I want to dedicate my life to advocacy. I want to go to law school because I feel that I *need* to understand the rules of the game I was born into. I want to use that knowledge to fight for what I believe in and for those marginalized by the 1%.

For now, however, I’m still in undergrad. I don’t have an outlet besides social media to discuss these issues. This platform, albeit small, is the only way that I can be heard in this increasingly loud world. Hopefully, one day, I can glean the fulfillment I seek from my professional work, but for now the only way I can rest my head on my pillow peacefully is to know that I have done whatever I can with whatever tools available to me to stand up against what I deem to be willful ignorance, prejudice, hypocrisy. It may be silly to you, and you may think that my efforts amount to nothing at all. For me, however, it’s everything. Advocating for those who can’t do it for themselves and shedding light on the truth are what keep my soul content.

I know that I’m not changing the vast majority of people’s minds. I know that our political and cultural opinions are so deeply ingrained in us and in our history that changing them feels like betraying where we came from. I know that Mississippi isn’t asking for help, especially not from a 23-year-old narcissist with no credentials whatsoever. I just can’t help but try. If anything I say reaches even one person and makes him or her think critically, even for a brief moment, I’ve accomplished what I set out to do.

The last thing I want to do is alienate people whom I respect, whom I consider friends. If I express disagreement with you, please know that the place I’m coming from isn’t one of moral or epistemic superiority. If you have felt personally offended or wrongly criticized by anything I’ve done, I am genuinely sorry. Again, I’m a liberal who has grown up in Mississippi. I’ve gotten very good at compartmentalizing when it comes to remaining friends with people with whom I vehemently disagree. If you’ve ever felt disrespected by my words, please know that my aim is to challenge the proliferation of factually inaccurate information or to call out what I see as unjust while, hopefully, starting a conversation. It isn’t a personal slight.

Unfortunately, especially with the Trump administration in power, many issues have been politicized that shouldn’t be. There shouldn’t be a widespread tendency to negate empirically and scientifically verified fact. There shouldn’t be any question in 2020 that Black Americans deserve the same treatment White Americans are afforded. I sincerely wish that political matters weren’t issues of absolute right and wrong, but the current problems our country faces — a pandemic and institutionalized racism — shouldn’t be turning us against each other. I feel strongly that we would all agree that fighting for equality is right and that we should listen to experts’ answers to questions in their respective fields, regardless of our party affiliation. We’ve just been manipulated into tribes that can no longer hear one another. We all want the same basic things — for there to be less violence, less cruelty, better education, a healthier planet…that any child in this country should have access to healthcare when he or she is sick and should not have to worry for their very lives. I understand that we are actually far more similar than we are different, as clichéd as that is to say.

I will be doing my best moving forward to remember that and to be more open-minded in debate with others. I want to understand my neighbor’s point of view, even if I don’t agree with it. Political discourse is what has fueled this country’s progress since its inception. I want to invite those from all walks of life, with opinions from all over the spectrum into safe conversations — not to make people worry I’d attack them for feeling differently about a political issue. I’m afraid I’ve been failing to do that lately, and I want to apologize for that and encourage anyone who has something to offer me in the way of new perspective or information to talk to me about it. This may just be useless rambling, but I wanted to just say that I appreciate and respect you all and will do better in the future.

With respect,

Ethel Ann Jones

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