This post by Jessica Levinson originally appeared in the Huffington Post.
When I first heard that Senator Mark Udall (D) suggested that members of Congress abandon their typical segregated seating for the State of the Union and cross the ever so broad swath of cloth on the House chamber floor separating the aisles where Republicans sit from those where Democrats do, my reaction was similar to the one I'd have if a random toddler approached me and announced plans to have a tea party on Pluto "how cute."
But then I thought, in typically cynical fashion, I'm not sure if we mature or if we just get older. If the latter is true, voluntary integration might be a great move for our motley crew of legislators.
I still remember, with stomach churning horror, an ugly high school cafeteria scene in which a group of friends told another friend that she best sit at a different table for lunch. My temporarily ostracized friend was different both politically and socially from my other friends. She forced my more closed minded lunching companions to consider a differing viewpoint, and frankly, to feel less free in their own knee jerk reactions.
Now of course the analogy between high school cafeteria and House chamber has a few minor holes, but can any of us argue that there aren't just a few similarities as well? If the "cool kids" didn't always sit at a different table from the nerds would my class have been filled with book smart fashionistas who were as well versed academically as they were socially? (The truth is, at my high school, they were. But that is for another day).
Allow me to provide another, perhaps less attenuated, example.
Some friends invited me to watch the final game of the World Cup. I know little about soccer except that people get extremely excited when an announcer screams "GOAL!" As my family is Dutch I felt some sort of allegiance to that team. Let me tell you, the first time I clapped at a successful Dutch play it was the definition of uncomfortable. Someone in my group of comrades should have told me they were all die hard fans of the Spanish teams. I was in enemy territory, and believe me, I only cheered when I felt pretty strongly about it, and not just because everyone around me was doing the same. No mob mentality at that viewing party.
So maybe this whole "sit anywhere" idea has something to it. But the next question is, of course, who does one ask to accompany them to the party?
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