In the hopes of producing a documentary from my cross-country motorcycle trip, I am asking my couchsurfing hosts about the importance of understanding people. These days, in the Age of Outrage, it is common and acceptable to point fingers and blame other people for their ignorance, fueling our feelings of being upset and hopeless but not fully engaging our capacity to learn and understand. I think it’s more important to understand people than it is to merely judge them and dismiss their humanity, as is so prevalent today.
Most if not all of my couchsurfing hosts lean more liberally. It’s not always something that’s discussed, and most hosts don’t even bring up politics (largely because so many of their guests are from other countries), but I have seen a few Bernie bumper stickers and there seems to be a general disdain for Trump. I’m sure that there are some hosts who hold more conservative views and may even vote Republican, but I haven’t met them yet.
Generally, people who identify themselves as liberal are much more accepting of strangers and seem to have a bit more faith in people’s capacity for good. Especially for conservatives who come from a religious background, the foundation of the Judeo-Christian heritage is that people are naturally selfish sinners that God has to punish for their existence, so it’s a little more difficult to trust people than it is for those who don’t hold such rigid beliefs about divine limitations. When you’re told you’re a wretched sinner once a week (or more) and need to be saved from being such an awful person, it doesn’t do a lot to bolster your faith in humanity. After all, if you’re a terrible sinner and still do your best to live righteously, imagine how poorly you inherently think about other people who participate in behavior you’ve been taught to be sinful.
However, I do have conservative family members, and while they may not be entirely willing to take in complete strangers, they do take in their own kind. And they do treat me very hospitably even though I am an unrepentant sinner. Although conservatives may not be as amenable to engaging with people outside of their clans, they do look out for one another and stick together.
As homo sapiens have evolved over the last couple of millennia, we started as clans and grew into communities which then became cities, then states, then nations. Throughout this growth, many have come to embrace these larger groupings, some opening up so much to have a world view that allows them to realize themselves as part of the entire world and find their place in the connectedness of all things. And there are some…