Tonight is the first presidential debate of the 2012 election, and my husband and I will be watching together from different sides of the aisle. My son isn’t sure he wants to participate. He doesn’t always appreciate the “discussion” that sometimes takes place when politics is the topic. My husband and I are respectful of the other’s viewpoint, but we do disagree. We are civil and reasonable–99% of the time.

The thing is that I feel fortunate to be part of a bipartisan marriage. And I feel like our kids have benefited, too. Here’s why-

  • We are forced to consider the opposite of what we believe to be true. I value my husband’s opinion, and he values mine. I know he is a good, upstanding person. So I cannot simply disregard his viewpoint. Doing so would show disregard for him. The same is true of him for me.
  • It’s impossible to generalize about the inadequacies of the people who subscribe to a different ideology. Whenever I hear or read things like, “Republicans are idiots!” I think, Wait. Did you just call my husband an idiot? Because that’s not okay. There is validity on both sides. Sometimes it’s hard to see, but it’s there.
  • My kids have been exposed to two entirely different viewpoints on politics. However, they have also been exposed to a completely synergistic approach to family, parenting, and everyday values. What better way to promote tolerance and acceptance of the differences we experience every day in this world? What matters most, above all else (to me), is what can be found in a person’s heart and how they relate to the people around them. That is not always evident based solely on political affiliation. A person is so much more than their politics.
  • It’s never boring! We agree; we disagree. We find common ground; we think the other person is completely crazy.
  • We ask questions of each other in order to try to understand. Questions are good. When the questioning stops, that’s when things get scary.

Recently, one of my collegial Facebook friends posted something to the effect that the day after the election, we all have to come together and move forward regardless of where we stand now. Someone will win, and someone will lose. That is undeniable.

In my house, on the day after the election, we will be worrying about paying the bills, putting a new roof on our house, what our kids are up to, and wondering who will be hosting Thanksgiving this year. Politics will be set aside. What good would there be in belaboring the point?

This is an important election. But let’s not forget that it’s important to different people for different reasons. If we all agreed, well, then why bother? The disagreement serves to make us all think, hopefully. And come to the best decision possible from within ourselves.

Our system is far from perfect. But it’s up to each of us to make the most of it.

Pay attention. Listen. Vote. That’s all you can do at this point. And it matters. It really does. But it doesn’t mean everything. What matters more is this: Try to understand why not everyone believes as you do. If you are sure of what you believe, then examining the alternative will only strengthen your own beliefs.

If you’re not sure, then you owe it to yourself to find out why.