When I was younger (I’m almost 41 now), I liked debating politics with friends, as we didn’t take ourselves very seriously, or politics, for that matter. We argued politics like others argued baseball or football. Only later on, when I started to discover that people had difficulty separating politics and personal affection, did I become more circumspect about my politics and my values. The experience of silencing myself directly led to this blog, as I found that I could not remain completely silent, especially after war was thrust upon us after 9/11. While I found other ways to express myself, I rarely did so amongst anyone except my closest and longest friends for fear of rejection. Sometimes I wondered if I sold my friends, co-workers, and acquaintances a bit short in doing so; I had a couple of experiences of being rejected for my politics, but it wasn’t widespread and didn’t involve really close friends.
After reading Michele’s experience today at A Small Victory, I feel like I may have been right all along:
Chris – and many others – can’t understand how I can be a one issue voter, yet they want me to not vote for Bush based on one issue.
But if you know me, and consider yourself my friend, and appreciate me as a person, and you still vote for George W. Bush this coming November, then let me tell you something right now: Don’t ever let me know that you did. Because I will never speak to you again.
Further down, he says, on the same subject:
then I am sorry, but I do not ever want to see your face or hear your voice in my presence. It’s a done deal.
My apologies if that offends anyone, but guess what? If that’s you, you’ve been offending me for a long, long time. And I’m just a little bit angry about what you would allow to be done to me, and to our country.
Chris and Michelle went back 15 years. Chris had been to Michele’s house and had been invited to her wedding. But Chris is gay, and he intends on being a single-issue voter in November and expects his friends to do the same. If not, then Chris wants Michele and anyone else to take a hike and never darken his door again.
Besides the notion that abrupt personal rejection is supposed to convince people of your exquisite judgment in politics, the self-destructiveness of such people makes a disinterested observer wonder what true value there ever was in having a relationship with them. But that doesn’t mitigate the pain of finding out that the friend you thought you had values his/her politics more than they do you. They value their undisturbed environment of outrage and victimization than they do your love and support. And that hurts.
For my part — and Michele’s, as she makes clear — I have friends who are my political opposites. I have a link to one, Haddayr, who writes beautifully about her life and her point of view but who couldn’t provide a clearer contrast to my politics if either one of us tried, but even though we don’t agree, we still respect each other. Unfortunately, I suspect I may have a few who might do the same thing Chris did to Michele … and so I express myself here instead.
A question for you: Under these circumstances, is it possible to have a true and honest debate about important issues? Because I’m wondering if this means that we are so caught up in making politics a zero-sum game that we forget that we all still need to live with each other at the end of that game. Do we only lose those who we thought were friends?