Bridges across the political divide

We have more in common than we realize. Our core values are similar.

I have a good friend who, by all rights, I’m not supposed to have. I met this big strong guy named Marty through the University handball club, of which I am also a member. We played some good games, and our senses of humor clicked. We’ve had many philosophical discussions over burgers at the Big 10 after matches, and we’re good friends. One day, I picked up a Minnesota Daily and turned to the opinion page. I’m about as left-wing politically as a person can get, so I was disappointed because the big column was very conservative. I looked at the columnist’s picture, and all of a sudden I realized that it was Marty Andrade, or “Marty from handball” as I know him. I, the flaming-liberal commie, am friends with Marty, the right-wing, capitalist pig. How?

Handball happened. This isn’t an article about how great my favorite sport is, but it’s about what commonalities like sports can do to bring people together. Sports let you compete, and yet deeply respect your competitor as a good player and a good person. Imagine if Marty and I had met at an anti-war protest. Our first meeting would have consisted of yelling oversimplified platitudes about stopping the war for oil or killing the terrorists, and we never would have gotten to know each other or our ideas for what they really are. Through sports, our common base of respect lets us talk about politics, and both share our opinions, without thinking that the other is “closed-minded” or “hates America.”

Sports humanize both you and your opponent by letting you interact on a level that everyone shares. It reminds me that below the rhetoric and the labels, conservatives like Marty basically want to live in the same kind of country that liberals like me do. They want as many people as possible to live long, happy, and fulfilling lives. We may take different policy approaches in realizing this vision, but our core values are essentially the same.

I hope that more people find common connections like sports, and realize that the “culture wars” are, on the deepest level, a fight over nothing. We have more in common than we realize, and an open environment like a university campus is the perfect place to start to learn that.

Sean Bryan is a University student. Please send comments to [email protected]