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  • “And would you like to change your party affiliation, ma’am?”

    I glanced sideways at my mom before replying to the MVA worker.

    “Yes, change it to Democrat, please.”

    My mom’s eyebrows shot up. She made a tsk sound, but didn’t speak.

    It was my 21st birthday, and the two of us were sitting in hard plastic chairs at the closest MVA Express. I was getting a new license, and that meant I had the chance to change my party affiliation, something I hadn’t done since I got my license at age 16.

    I looked over at her again.

    “What, mom?”

    “I’m just surprised.”

    “Well, I don’t want to be associated with the Republican party anymore.”

    “Well, I disagree with you.”

    Those five words were to become a mantra of sorts, repeated countless times over dinner conversations.

    At age 21, I am a Democrat. But at age 16, I was firmly a Republican. At age 16, I had only ever attended private school. At age 16, all I knew about politics I learned from growing up in a hyper-conservative household.

    Saying I was a Democrat out loud took some getting used to. I remember telling my conservative friend, Jake, for the first time. He hugged me as though I had told him that a close relative had died.

    Voicing my liberal views may not seem like a big deal to someone else. The guilt I felt over it is difficult to explain to someone who shares the same views as their parents. I was betraying my roots.

    I was raised as the oldest child in a big, loving Catholic family - the kind of family that makes time to eat dinner together every single night. So when I started developing my own views and realizing that they no longer aligned with those of my parents, I didn’t know how they would react.

    I worried that they would assume the liberal college environment had “poisoned” my thoughts, or that I was just swaying with the popular opinion.

    My friend Tamar saw my views change firsthand. We’ve been friends since freshman year; she was one of the first liberal-minded people I considered among my best friends.

    About a month ago, we were considering the best way to go about creating a productive political dialogue with “the other side.”

    “Well, what made you change your mind?” Tamar asked, referring to my gradual shift in views.

    I hesitated before responding.

    “It wasn’t any one specific instance. I think it was just being open to learning what the other side had to say, and then being willing to change if I was presented with truth.”

    Last week, my mom and I were talking on the phone about the Muslim Ban. Our conversation had started because she sent me an article entitled, “I’m a Democrat, but there’s something great about Trump’s travel ban.”

    By the end of our phone call, the tension in our voices was palpable. In a last-ditch peace effort, I offered to send her more information about what the vetting process is like for refugees coming to the U.S. from Muslim-majority countries.

    “Okay, I’ll read what you send me. I don’t actually know much about it,” she admitted.

    I breathed out. I didn’t realize I had been holding my breath.
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