In light of the election that took place close to a year ago, many of my Facebook friends have either confided in me or screamed to social media about their dismay in the political choices and ideology of friends and family. While the derision of the another’s party line is a time-honored tradition, the raw anger and hurt seem unique to this particular cycle.
How should you react when you reach the breaking point in your interactions?
At what point can you maintain a functional relationship with someone who you feel believes the antithesis of your own morals?
These are questions debated on both sides of the aisle. They appear to be solved by a single action: unfriend and unfollow those who don’t agree with you.
Let me recommend a quick read before you push that button: Go Set a Watchman by Harper Lee. This short sophomore sequel to To Kill a Mockingbird is perfect for those of you who have little emotional energy left to deal with those who you feel are sorely out of touch with reality. Readers of To Kill a Mockingbird will recognize the protagonist, an adult Jean Louise (or Scout, if you grew up with her) and her father, the groundbreaking lawyer Atticus Finch, who was able to prove a young black man innocent in a small Jim Crow-run southern town. While home for a two-week-long vacation, Jean Louise stumbles across some unsavory reading material in her father’s house, leading to a discovery that shakes her opinion of her father forever.
The crux of the novel focuses on the same questions asked by many today: How do you love someone who believes everything you hate?
Many of us tend to close ourselves off to the opposing side, creating echo chambers that repeat our pinions back to us like Narcissus staring at his own reflection in the river. (or Facebook feed). It’s easy to like things that we already agree with. If viewing content from the other side stirs anger, this book is for you.
Many of you already know the cliff-notes version of Atticus’s opinions and have refrained from reading this book in order to preserve a beloved idol’s destruction. Do yourself a favor and read Go Set a Watchman cover to cover. You may need the bitter downfall and bittersweet catharsis as much as Jean Louise did.
p.s. – For readers who have difficulties in understanding race relations today and the emotional labor involved in educating white folks, observe the differences between Jean Louise’s interactions with her uncle and Calpurnia. White women’s tears are a notable literary trope and actual occurrence that Lee uses in order to display the changing attitudes of Black Americans as they start to shake off the Jim Crow Era chains and work towards the Civil Rights Movement. Calpurnia’s coldness is juxtaposed with her warmth in To Kill a Mockingbird as much as Atticus’s politics are. She isn’t wrong for being this way, either.