Tea Parties

Like many people, I was shocked when Trump won the presidency. I thought, for sure, that Hilary would win, because who the heck would vote for a person who’s obviously a con man? Apparently, a lot of people. People whom I don’t know and who aren’t on my radar. Don’t get me wrong, I've always known that my friend circles were selective, that my Facebook feed wasn’t representative of the wider America. But I still believed that, deep down inside, I had a general impression of what other people were thinking and feeling. I was wrong.

But why? Why didn’t I see it coming?

The problem, as I see it now, is that we're more separated than I'd originally thought. Liberals hang out with liberals, and conservatives hang out with conservatives. This is understandable, as people enjoy spending time with others who share their values. But I’m convinced that there is something truly lost when we don’t engage with the other side.

When we're separated, people are demonized and causes trivialized.

After concluding what the problem was, I tried to think of ways to address it. How could I get liberals and conservatives to talk to each other? Well, it just so happens that I'd been hosting tea parties for a year prior to the election, with the sole purpose of being social. And it just so happens that my friend circle here is quite politically diverse. Once I realized that I was already creating the perfect atmosphere for dialogue, my tea parties took on a new meaning. Now they are my attempts to create a micro-version of what I want the wider society to look like.

So yea, I’m trying to rebuild America, one tea bag at a time.

One of the reasons why I think my tea parties provide a perfect atmosphere for dialogue is because every person there is seen as a human being first—not as a conservative first, or as a liberal first, but as a human being first. Labels do matter. Labels do affect how we see and treat others, even if only on a subconscious level. Furthermore, the people at my tea parties are seen as human beings who are also my friends. Knowing that immediately creates a positive connection.

“Oh, you’re a swing dancer? That’s cool, I’ve always wanted to try it.”

Or

“Oh, you’re a scientist? That’s cool. What kind of research do you do?”

This is how you build friendships. You break bread with one another, or, in my case, drink tea. And friendships are what we need. Having a conversation here and there isn’t enough.

To further foster community building at my tea parties, I try to get everyone to engage in a group activity. Last time, we played a physics puzzle game on my smartphone while it was being mirrored on my TV. Everyone was helpful and supportive. It was great. It is my hope that through these group games, my friends will form deeper connections with one another, connections that can only be built upon the foundation of laughter.

I find that there is a special bonding experience that takes place when I laugh with another person, that isn't achieved via conversation. I'm not sure why this is, but it may be because when we laugh, we reveal our characters. What we find funny is an indication of who we are as people. So if another person finds the same thing funny, it shows that we are similar at least in one important aspect. Perhaps another reason is because laughter creates positive moods. I can't speak for others, but when I'm joyful, I'm in a mental state that lends itself to friendship building. Moreover, being sociable leads to more laughter, which, in turn, fosters more positivity.

I have no idea if my efforts will bear fruit. However, even if I fail, I would've at least spent my time with wonderful people.