Reblogged from Jill Dennison’s November 15, 2022 post
Blogging friend Jill Dennison has written a thoughtful, profound, painfully honest inquiry into the nature of friendship in our divisive times. It seems especially appropriate to ponder as families and friends gather for Thanksgiving, a holiday that is more fraught than ever with tensions.
My political partisanship has been so heightened in recent years that I’ve had to come to terms with my own limitations in this regard. I am–or was–conciliatory by nature. I’ve aspired in this blog to bring people together and find common ground.
I do believe that appeals to our better instincts and our commonality are the best ways to bridge our differences. I was pleased at one point to write about a successful effort to rescue neo-Nazis from their dark pasts. I’m a mindfulness meditator, after all–trying to embrace our oneness for the good of us all.
Still, I must acknowledge that I’m not able to put those beliefs in practice when I see and hear the dreadful cruelty that is being organized and weaponized to divide us. I’ve lost–or at best misplaced–my ability to engage people whose views are diametrically opposed to mine. And I’m saddened by this loss.
Jill’s essay evoked a robust discussion among her readers that is a worthy coda to her work. I had to cut and paste her piece, losing that portion, but I encourage you to visit her post and explore those comments.
And I hope you’ll share your thoughts on this important topic with me in the comments section below. Have you been able to navigate through the hard edges of politics to retain friendships/family ties with those you care about but strongly disagree with? If so, how do you do it?
And what lies ahead? Surely we can’t let that awful, insecure man permanently damage our social fabric. Perhaps we must at last accept the hard task of viewing this nation as it’s been revealed–and begin to build anew–guided by the majority of Generation Z young people who appear to be unburdened by much of the divisiveness based on preconceived notions that are built into so many of us?
Please forgive my introspective and somewhat dark mood this morning …
What is friendship? Respect? If I don’t respect you, can I still really call you a friend? In times of strife, we learn who our friends really are, don’t we? I and most of you have either lost friends or found relationships strained over the last six years because of our political views. Here in the U.S., it was Trump, and in the UK it was Brexit. I remember in 2016/2017 being floored to find out that people I had known for 30-40 years were avid fans of Trump. Eventually, most of them ‘unfriended’ me on Facebook, stopped sending Christmas cards and stopped including me in their occasional lunches. All of which was fine with me, for I realized we had nothing to talk about and my views were too strong for me to sit and smile while listening to them sing the praises of a maniacal madman. I’m lucky for while I have lost a number of friendships, some people have even divorced over unreconcilable political differences!
So, my question is … what is friendship if it cannot, in many cases, survive differences in political ideology? Is friendship fleeting, depending on both people to grow and change in the same direction? Is it by necessity doomed when they don’t? And I ask myself in the wee hours of the morning when sleep is elusive, “Do I care more about political philosophy than I care about the people I once called ‘friend’?”
A fellow-blogger spoke the other day of taking a road trip with a number of friends who are avid Trump supporters and how difficult it was, listening to the talk show radio in the car set to the station of their choice where the radical right viewpoint was presented loud and clear, and I think he’s a better person than I am, for I would have told the driver to stop the car, gotten out and hitchhiked back home! Worse yet, had it been my car, I’d have stopped the car and told the rest to get out!
And it isn’t only politics … another person who I had been friends with since 1970 recently stopped being my friend because of my non-religious beliefs, even though I do not talk of my views, do not make a big deal of them, and certainly never try to convince anyone else to think as I do. She decided that if she couldn’t convert me to her ways, then the friendship had to end.
Y’know … times are tough everywhere and we all need a support system, we need friends who we can count on and who can count on us in times of trouble. I recently found out that a couple of my former work friends had died, and I was as saddened to learn of their deaths as if we were still close friends. I was sad to know that I wasn’t there for them when they might have needed a hand to hold. I wish I could have given them just one last hug.
For two years while working on my undergraduate degree I worked as a research assistant for a professor of political science at the University of Virginia, Joseph M. Scolnick. One of his projects that I assisted on was based on the theory that the surest way to bring a nation of people together is an external threat. We saw the results of this briefly in the hours and days following 9/11 when this nation came together, especially the people of New York City, but throughout the nation. We came together, if only for a few days before the conspiracy theories and finger-pointing began.
Right now this nation is more divided than I can remember … even during the Vietnam War, we were not this divided. Is this what it’s going to take to bring us back together? Is it going to take someone dropping a bomb, declaring war, shooting down an airliner, before we set aside our differences and pull together for the sake of camaraderie, the sake of self-preservation, the sake of the nation, the globe?