Monday, November 23, 2020
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Do We Have to Respect Our Neighbors?

How are liberals supposed to live next to those who support Donald Trump? In a polarized era where Americans hate members of the opposite party more than they love their own, it is becoming increasingly difficult. 

The phrase “whatever happens, we are still neighbors” has been making the rounds on social media recently. And sure, it is true: we are still neighbors. That does not mean we have to respect one another. Sure, there are instances like this where Democrats and Republicans get along in the same neighborhood, but really? How are we to live peacefully next to people who disregard the lack of human decency of the Trump administration, all because the “economy is doing well?” We do not necessarily have to hate our neighbors, but we certainly do not have to respect them.

To clarify, I mean respect in the sense that we do not have to see them as decent human beings. We should still be civil with them. We should not condone violence against our neighbors. We should not stop saying hello to them when they are outside or helping them should they need assistance. However, the rhetoric and policies some of them support only show their blatant disregard for human life and prove that they are not worthy of being seen as decent from others. 

Take it from me: I have lived next to Republicans for 12 years. Political ideology never played a part in how we got along. I grew up with their children, ate dinner at their houses and had block parties where the entire street showed up. All of that crumbled in 2016. We knew they were Republicans, but we never knew they would lose their basic humanity because of politics. We disagreed with them but were civil for the most part. That was until we knew they were not, and still are not, willing to draw a line on what is too far.

How am I supposed to respect my Mexican neighbor, who has immigrant parents, that has openly supported the candidacy of Trump because he called immigrants rapists and criminals? Someone who defended him when he stripped immigrant parents of their children and locked the kids in cages? You would think there would be a line.

What about my white neighbors, who we considered family along with the rest of the street? We have shared food, at one point even allowing one of their children into our house every day for an entire summer. Now, they are Trump supporters. While they talk about how kind my family is, Facebook posts talking about how Muslims are dangerous and openly supporting the Muslim ban can be found on their pages. How am I supposed to respect them when they refer to my people as dangerous? 

Despite all of their horrible beliefs, my family tries to remain civil, since it is one thing to disagree and be civil, but another to disagree and hate one another. For example, 

one Republican family on my street hates Trump’s racist and xenophobic rhetoric, and has continues to have our respect. They had even reached out and made it known that we are still considered family to them, despite differing political views. The others, however? Unfriended us on social media, stopped inviting us to neighborhood gatherings (not that we would show up anyway) and some even stopped saying hello to us. 

Of course, I do not have a problem with this. I still talk to some when they are outside and strike some casual conversation, but I have no idea how I am ever going to see them the same way anymore. I do not have a problem getting along with Republicans, but I do have a problem living with semi-closeted racists.

I mention my neighborhood a lot here, but this is not a problem that is isolated to my street. This is nationwide. I imagine it is a lot worse in the usual swing states, with political opinion being heavily divided among neighbors. Some may hate one another, some may not. However, that is not the point. The fact that neighborhoods may be split apart because of politics is sad and disappointing.

Politics has divided us today more than ever. It has gotten to the point where we are literally distancing ourselves from each other, even if we consider ourselves family. Parents stop talking to their children, couples divorce. I do not see any reason why we should hate people who still support Trump and his policies to this day, but there is no problem with not respecting them or not being able to see them the same again. 

Moh Samhouri is an Opinion Intern for the 2020 fall quarter. He can be reached at samhourm@uci.edu.