To the People Who Disagree With Me

It's got to start on less inflammatory terms, our friendship. Or perhaps "friendship" is too strong a word at the outset, but I think we'll get there.

You knew, just like I did, that the mass shooting in Orlando - the gravest mass shooting in our nation's history and a stunning loss of vibrant life - would be met with vicious words on both sides of multiple arguments. The gun control crusaders (that's me) asking how another incident could occur without our government enacting stricter gun laws and the gun rights advocates (maybe that's you) worrying, "Here they go again," holding true to your belief that guns aren't the real problem.

Donald Trump thinks stricter immigration policies are necessary. Hillary Clinton says such measures would ostracize an entire population. You agree with him, I agree with her, we are very angry. The hate speech online would be shocking if it wasn't so shocking, you know what I mean?

My senator, Chris Murphy, has fought aggressively for gun control reform; his recent Tweets on the issue immediately receive callous replies that I'd rather not repost. That's just one example. The crude name-calling persists in a fever pitch pace. I'm steeled and ready for my own round here.

But I've seen good come from this tragedy, too. I've seen impassioned speeches by friends of the deceased insisting that "love conquers hate," and I know that it's true. I watched Tom Brokaw call for a national day of mourning this coming Sunday that might serve as a catalyst for meaningful discussion between individuals of all walks of life and political mindsets (yes, I watched him say that on MSNBC, and I know you probably have words to impart regarding my left-leaning media choices).

Love conquers hate. But even that might be too loaded an initiation for you and me.

How about this. What's your favorite song? Your favorite book? Television show? I get confused about the plotlines every single time we watch "Game of Thrones," and "Scandal" is my guilty pleasure.

This type of levity seems silly, and probably distasteful, in the face of such staggering tragedy. Forty-nine people were killed. Count that in your head, one to 49, and recognize its weight.

But that's the thing. This weight is too much for us to carry as sparring enemies. We're headed for zero solutions again.

No solutions because you don't know me, and I don't know you.

What I've learned, writing about issues from maternity leave to the Second Amendment, is that it's much easier not to engage in real communication. But when individuals who don't like my viewpoint make the decision to approach me -- in person, online, wherever -- and are open enough to share their thoughts, there's plenty of room for cordial discussion.

From there, we move onto respect. Then we can discuss the issues without name-calling or fear. Because I won't be senselessly mean to my new friend, and my new friend won't be mean to me. It doesn't feel right anymore.

These ideas pertain to more than online political battles, of course, and go way beyond my own agenda. This is everywhere.

Find your enemies. Don't be cocky. Do be brave.

Don't disengage when someone says something you deem "ignorant" (and I'm sure I've said things that qualify as such to you right here in this post).

I can't stomach another battle of ideologies that ends in stagnation once we're feeling desensitized again. But I'd like to get to know the people who disagree with me better. Of all my beliefs, and believe me, I've got 'em, this one feels the most pressing, the most promising and the most likely to inspire change.

For now, for the beginning, we'll simply agree to try. Ask the small questions first. Maybe we're not so different. Let's start there.