ON FRIENDSHIP

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?

Annie

________________________

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?

34 thoughts on “ON FRIENDSHIP

  1. Thoughtful piece. Important question. I have struggled as well with this very issue and thus far can not engage with those I once valued or at least could see socially now and then who now support things and people I regard as vile. There’s no changing their mind. And no changing mine. Is this my failing or a sign of the times, not sure. Maybe both. As for a common enemy / external threat theory — sure, that will bring us together however briefly, but what a price to pay. And as for friendship weighed against political philosophy . . . push comes to shove, and I vote philosophy. A friendship is a singular event, one on one, but philosophy affects the many. I couldn’t in good conscience pick the singular at the expense of whole swaths of society who would suffer if the no-good, narcissistic, delusional, call-it-what-you-will guys prevail.

    Liked by 4 people

    1. I find your scale weighing the impact on the many vs one on one quite comforting, Denise, as I grapple with my continuing desire to breach what may be unbreachable at this point.

      With regard to the potential impact of an external threat, we are currently seeing the internal threat that has been widely, though incorrectly, attributed to Lincoln (in an 1838 speech)—but has the ring of truth nevertheless: “America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.”

      Liked by 1 person

      1. “From whence shall we expect the approach of danger? Shall some trans-Atlantic military giant step the earth and crush us at a blow? Never. All the armies of Europe and Asia…could not by force take a drink from the Ohio River or make a track on the Blue Ridge in the trial of a thousand years. No, if destruction be our lot we must ourselves be its author and finisher. As a nation of free men we will live forever or die by suicide.”
        ― Abraham Lincoln
        Even with a gun toward the head there is a choice. We are men or we are not.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That works too, Richard—as amended with “…and women.”

        The problem is that we have an armed minority whose idea of freedom seems to have been shaped by the losing side of the Civil War. I’m comfortable with the diverse majority in this country; I do worry about how we deal with the others.

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Most of my friends leave by dying these recent times. I miss them but it was always the doing things together that kept us together. There are tough loses however. I was his best man twice and he mine once. His new wife disapproved of my wife’s smoking habit. (he is an ex smoker or was). That was twenty years ago. I still have the wife and her habit. Since it was his third I doubt he can say the same. We were high school friends. I valued him but sadly it was not reciprocated.

    Liked by 2 people

      1. I hesitate to say because of the reflection but I can’t think of a single friend that I’ve lost to politics. We discuss it as I like argument plus we drink (or used too)but it only got physical once to the point I had to walk home and then I kept the beer. That was Obama and it was more racism than politics, still is. I don’t think I’d sacrifice an acquaintance over politics or religion for that matter. I might have to risk my life for one of the nuts.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I believe that the person is far more important than some baseless idea. A persons position on the divine or ideal governance has no hard evidence to back them up. All my ideas are based in similarly shifting sands so who am I to judge nor will I accept judgement from the misinformed. This is a fine space you have created. Not in my mind impressive since I am the luckiest man I know.

        Like

  3. Thank you so much, Annie, for sharing this post. I think most everyone these days can relate in some way to the loss of friends and family due to the political environment. I appreciate you sharing this, hopefully helping people to realize that they are not alone. Hugs.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. This was a most important post to share Annie, for to use the adapting of an oft used quote:
    ‘These are times which test people’s souls’
    As with the UK and Brexit the USA has seen a sharp division which cuts through family, friendship and working relationships. The fearful ‘If you are not with me, you are against me,’ factor has come into play. Words have and are being said which cannot be taken back so easily, in some cases it may take a generation to wipe out the stain.
    As I have warned others, with centuries of European history of conflict as a background it is to confess I am as quick as any to censure, build up the barricades and hurl missiles.
    It is therefore with much gratitude and relief I have found friends here on WP who though as dedicated are more moderate in their approaches. May you folk prosper.
    Best wishes
    Roger

    Liked by 2 people

    1. The fear is the problem I think. I also think some of it is environmental. Out of college with a BS in biology I went into pest control. By that time Pyrethrins had lost most of their lethal effects but were a useful irritant to get the bugs to move into the deadly stuff. To say it was applied liberally would understate its use. It was considered harmless in the trade. I became anxious and irrationally afraid. This dissipated when I went into a different trade. While correlation is not causation just look at the extreme drop in violent crime when lead was removed from gasoline. Check out the symptoms of CO2 poisoning. Why wouldn’t a doubling of atmospheric CO2 in the last 50 years have some effect? We are at base a complex chemical soup.
      “We can easily forgive a child who is afraid of the dark; the real tragedy of life is when men are afraid of the light.”
      ― Plato

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Good point. When it comes to pollutants be they chemical, electrical, or social (that’s my own hobby-horse) it is as well to keep an open mind.
        When I was a lad (1960s) I used to laugh at the old wives suggestions that loud artillery in WWI and later by my gran that other loud artificial sounds caused bad weather, and yet the more we learn of the effects of one force or another…..
        Now that is a very good quote I’ve not come across before…Copied & Pasted to my ‘Quotes’ Doc.
        Thanks

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I’m honored. We studied Republic in sixth grade! It is probably banned now. Justice is the anchor of a societies happiness. I speculate that what “we” see as a deficiency of justice might be the cause of or current unhappiness.
        My problem (personal) is what form must justice take when good people do bad things.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. “My problem (personal) is what form must justice take when good people do bad things.”
        Ah indeed, the testing point for all of us. Example: Enviromental activists sit down or otherwise block busy roads causing problems for ordinary folk going ‘here and there’ and holding up Emergency Services. They are breaking the law and causing a measure of harm to people. Their cause is good but their actions are potentially harmful.
        Full weight of the Law to be brought? New legislation to mark them out?
        We can sit back and discuss this on line.
        What would we say if we were trying to get a relative to hospital as an emergency, or our home was on fire and the fire crew were stuck a mile away?
        Tough one indeed.

        Liked by 2 people

    2. Roger, I’m so grateful to have made your acquaintance—and friendship. I think it was via Jill’s reblogging of one of my posts, which you then reblogged on yours. And here we are. What an interesting turn of events!

      You may be right that an entire generation will have to pass “to wipe out the stain.” I’m quite sure this election bought us much-needed time, but didn’t remove the threats our democracy still faces. We must get past what millions of us hope will be the indictment and conviction of a treasonous ex-President who has inexplicably been imbued with godlike virtues by some Americans who think they’re the real patriots. Then we must shore up our multiethnic, multicultural democracy.

      Viewed through this perspective, it’s no wonder personal friendships have been frazzled and lost under the strain.

      Thanks, as always, for your valuable support.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Thank you Annie, in turn I am glad to count you amongst my American friends. For all sorts of reasons the USA drew me in from an early age and became a sort of adopted country, and is still my go to place for TV shows (comedy, action, SF, cartoons).
        Our own ups and downs in the UK are annoying but somehow part of the ‘fudge’ we live through, albeit at present a very challenging flavour. What is happening in my adopted nation is unconscionable, ignorance, intolerance and hypocrisy stalking the land.
        I agree, time has been brought with the 2022 mid-terms kick back against the maga cult, but the struggle for the heart and soul of the USA goes on.
        It may be, as was the fate of many a nation, empire or whatever current nation will fragment into smaller units. It will be sad, but nothing new.
        The important factor is that Compassion, Respect and Tolerance are allowed to flourish in some parts and the USA experiment started back in the 18th century continues on its way, making up for the errors of the past, but still keeping on.
        Best wishes for your own Thanksgiving Annie
        Roger

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Many thanks, Roger. Best wishes to you and family. One of our sons-in-law is a Brit (Scotland-born), and our grandson has dual citizenship. So the UK “fudge” is of interest and concern to us as well.
        Cheers,
        Annie

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Scotland.😀 Small world; sitting here in North East Wales.
        Yes, these are testing times, aside from Brexit not being the golden era promised (Oh my. What a surprise), our principal infrastructure systems are all in crisis; each with its workers taking strike action (aside from the police) and financial hardship is all too common.
        Trying not to sound hyperbolic, just analytical this might be our most testing time since the early stages of WWII.
        Whether the UK in its current set up remains or turns into a federation remains to be seen.
        Testing times for us all Annie.
        Take care
        Roger

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Good friends can drift apart over anything and I have been ghosted a number of times by people I thought were friends. But to your point, I have a former coworker who’s a die-hard Trump fan and we have been walking every Sunday for years and we agree not to talk about politics. There are plenty of topics to discuss and we have remained good friends. I work with a woman who’s a Trumper and her phone is always on set to Fox news. To say it’s a distraction and annoying is an understatement. But the manager finally stepped in and told her to keep her phone off during work hours unless she was alone in the store. Again we don’t talk politics, she has her views and I have mine and it’s off the table for any discussion. I don’t post Politics on Facebook and I don’t read politics that other people post. But I agree it’s hard.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks, LA, for this positive response. It’s hopeful. Our next door neighbors, who are moving shortly, are trumpies; yet every time he got out his snowblower to clear his paths, he did ours as well. We exchanged holiday gifts and watched their dog recently. We never discussed politics—and part of me wonders how that discussion would have unfolded.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I have several friendships that date back to the early 1980s. While it was distressing to learn that some of these folks voted for the former guy and don’t regret it, our longtime friendships are based on much more than politics, so we’ve been able to remain good buddies. Politics isn’t a verboten topic when we get together, but we keep it in the background as much as possible, and even tease each other about our political differences. If any of these folks made racist or anti-Semitic comments, that would fracture our friendships, but fortunately that has not happened. Making new friends is another story. Nowadays, I avoid befriending tRumpites because, unlike the situation with my longtime friends, I haven’t seen their good side—and I have difficulty assuming they even have a good side.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Such an interesting and reasonable distinction, Gail—between longstanding friends and the possibility of new ones. The most encouraging aspect of your response is that you can laugh together about your difference: humor is woefully underrated in these circumstances, and I suspect most people fear to attempt it. Many thanks.

      Liked by 1 person

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