Why do we get so passionate about politics? Perhaps we’re really “pack animals” and derive much of our identity and even some self-esteem by identifying with groups we belong to. We’re proud of and identify with our social clubs the schools we attended and even the NFL teams whose jerseys we wear.
As someone who served in the Marine Corps, whenever the discussion turns to military matters, fifty years after being discharged I still feel a sense of pride at being referred to as a Marine. I taught skiing for 15 years, and when I wore a blue jacket, I would tell anyone who would listen the Vail Ski School was the best on the planet. A similar dynamic exists within political ideology. We identify with a particular party or political philosophy, and when we do, it’s only natural that we gravitate to anything validating our beliefs. I suspect too we just feel better, perhaps even safer when our unconscious biases are confirmed.
We’ve all heard the stories about family members not speaking to each other because of political disagreements, but like many issues in life, they don’t become real until they happen to us. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced that phenomenon with two very old and very dear friends. Friend #1 told me to take him off my weekly blog subscription and the other said, “Don’t send it to me,” when I mentioned I had a great commentary blog coming up.
To be honest, neither comment sat well with me, and my initial reaction was to tell both to do something that’s anatomically impossible, but I held my tongue. And while I have certainly disagreed and debated with my liberal friends, I’ve never allowed it to impinge upon a friendship, but sadly, that may be changing.
Those who read my commentary, or my posts know I verify every word and source every statement of fact. And while I certainly touch on controversial issues, i.e., racism, climate chang etc., I don’t understand why facts should be considered objectionable unless viewed by a jaundiced eye, i.e., someone who simply refuses to listen to any other perspectives other than those being proffered by CNN.
Sometimes it’s difficult to wrap words around feelings, and candidly I wasn’t sure what I felt. Upon reflection it may have been combination of being hurt, angered, and insulted. And now that I really think about it, I don’t think my friends could have insulted me more had they laughed at me.
Anger is the shortest lived or all emotions and it dissipated quickly but the hurt lingered; I mean c’mon, when a long-time friend so cavalierly dismisses your ideas & feelings about a matter you consider important and tells you not to send it, it’s hurtful. If my next-door neighbor disagrees with my political views and shuts me off in the middle of a conversation that’s one thing but coming from someone, I’ve considered a close friend for more than 50 years truly affected me.
Moving forward I’m going to abide by the wisdom of Jefferson and not withdraw from either of my old friends. But in many ways, it may be too late because the die is already cast. What both individuals have effectively done is to remove any discussion of current events or the culture. How can one engage in a conversation these days without discussing the Americans left behind in Afghanistan, the changing rules of COVID, inflation or the price of gas when these issues (controversial all) are in the news and in our face 24/7?
I do not have an answer, but I’ve concluded that if a friendship cannot survive political or ideological issues such as those mentioned, then perhaps it’s not that much of a friendship after all.
Quote of the day: “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”—Thomas Jefferson