Can You Be #Friends with Someone Whose #Politics are Diametrically Opposed to Yours?

Category: Moral Question of the Week, Weekly Columns

comic on politics

Yes, I know most people would answer this “Moral Question of the Week” with a quick, “Of course.” But, to me, it’s not so simple. To me, the future of my kids’ lives are at stake with what is going on in the world today. Therefore, the politics of our times – both domestically and internationally – make a huge difference in my day-to-day life and thinking. I’ve found that reasonable “dialogue” with people with opposing views is hard and often ends up in someone being angry. So, with “old” friends on the opposite spectrum, we’ve agreed to simply not talk politics.

Comic about office politics

          I think it’s best to just stay out of office politics!

The question is more for me with new friends. And that is my question for you? You can’t divorce yourself from your family – most of the time – so this does not apply to family though I’d suggest leaving politics OUT of the holiday get-togethers. Please add your thoughts in the comments section, below?

  • jack43

    Yes, but… That is the only honest answer I can think of. Generally, it was not a problem for most of my 71 years. Politics was a trivial interest only, especially living in a country that celebrated the individual. My friends were individuals. Our group identities – gender, race, religion, national origin, political affiliation – were largely inconsequential. Sadly, those days are past and I find myself being lumped into a category of AOWM (Angry Old White Men). People ASSUME what I want, think, and believe based on their preconceived notions of AOWMs and discourse is thus impossible. Whatever comes out of my mouth that does not conform to those notions is assumed to be a lie.

    Politics, more accurately ideology, has inspired this state of affairs. The statists divide us into groups and, sadly, some have gone along with it.

    So, yes, I was often friends with those who were diametrically opposed to me by many measures, not just politics. But, that was then. Now, I am dismissed before the bonds of friendship can be formed, and existing bonds are broken by those who buy into this nonsense. It seems that my greatest sin is that I still believe in the individual and strive against notions that attempt to suppress individuals and their God-given rights. The statists fear individuals and they fear individual rights, especially the right of self defense which insures all the other rights. Thus, they fear me and it is very difficult to be friends with someone you fear…

    • Bruce Sallan

      Beautifully written and expressed @jack43:disqus – it is sad that things have changed this way. I am clear on who I am and therefore who I want in my life. Ironically, it became more important to me, when I remarried, to find a woman who shared my values/politics than shared my religion. I’m glad I chose on that basis since our religious differences are negligible and irrelevant to our daily lives!

  • David Weber

    The issue revolving around the future of your kids is starker than you’ve articulated it — the question you are essentially asking is, “Because the views that are opposite to mine are ones that will diminish the chances my kids have for a certain type of future, can I become friends with someone with those views?” … or perhaps even, “Given that my views are the only ones that coincide with what is best for my kids’ futures, can I make friends with someone who has opposing views?”

    You can see the problematic nature of the presuppositions underlying that framework of thought. Just about any worldview is going to yield good and bad results for the future. Worldviews, political philosophies, you name it, anything along those lines emerges at least partially in response to the matter of what do we want the future to entail. One can only hope that such-and-such a worldview will yield more good and fewer bad results.

    Some worldviews or political systems are patently bad by the standards of just about anyone other than very staunch ideologues. I’m thinking of Naziism, Soviet communism and some others that fortunately, from my point of view, are at most niche ideologies today. Although it is of interest to me that in Russia and some other parts of what was once the Soviet Union, there is a sort of nostalgia movement for the “good old days” (low prices, a sense of order, etc.) that ostensibly were in force under Soviet or Soviet-style communism. It just goes to show how daggone uncomfortable humans are with change from what is known.

    I have long subscribed, in politics, to a stance that is moderate or centrist. It pushes me to take a close look at what the merits of a policy or perspective are or are not. The majority of my friends lean left or are moderate, like me. I wish I had more friends from a wider range of viewpoints, as long as — and to me, this is the vital pivot point with respect to making friends whose views oppose your own — they are willing to engage in dialogue that is free of acrimony, snide asides and sloganeering that run counter to your views. Let’s DISCUSS, not badger…it is the sniping, the name-calling and the red meat that I dislike, not the difference in worldview or perspective between myself and a candidate for friendship.

    I am wary of any agreement made between friends to not talk about “x,” if “x” is as broad a concept as “politics.” First of all, this is not going to work unless the two parties wholly agree what does and does not fall within the boundaries of something as vaguely articulated as the term politics. Second, this is not going to work unless the two parties agree to NEVER engage in banter, quips, asides and so forth that would naturally occur in routine conversation. For example, the two friends are having a cup of coffee in a joint where a news channel is playing on a TV in the corner. The image of Politican “X” comes on…it would be natural to make a wisecrack about him or her, or express admiration or disdain…but wait! We can’t do that because we’ve agreed to not discuss politics.

    Third, it’s not going to work in the long run because it will always be the elephant in the living room in this friendship. The friendship is always going to be less than what it could be. Friendships usually have explicit or implicit limits; but when those limits concern something that ultimately has to do with HOW one TALKS about something, what a waste of a relationship, because all that needs to happen is to train one another how to talk with one another on topics of a political nature…what kinds of talking together is acceptable or not, as opposed to what massive category of topics we will walk on eggshells around.

    My campaign for the past year or two has been no ideological screeds. I don’t listen to political talk radio any more, I don’t read polemical writings that tell me that I or people like me are jackasses. A couple of years ago, I set my email inbox to reject forwards sent by acquaintances (one a second cousin) who only sent materials that said ideas like some of mine were traitorous, evil, stupid and so on. I seek out and enjoy listening to or reading arguments that challenge or run against my extant beliefs, but only as long as they are well-informed, thoughtful arguments. I would welcome the possibility of making new friends with anyone who might test my thinking in the latter way. I have no desire to replicate at the personal level the hatred, vitriol and accusatory self-righteousness to be found cheap and pervasive in the public square.

    • Bruce Sallan

      As always you post a very thoughts set of questions and thoughts, David. One question in return – could you be friends with anyone who supports Isis and their creed towards Christians (along with beheading children and recently an American journalist)? I couldn’t…

      • David Weber

        When I wrote my comment, I was thinking in terms of willingness to make friends with someone whose ideology and mine differed, but only in terms of contradistinctive positions on a relatively “mainstream” spectrum of political orientations to be found among the majority of U.S.A. citizens. I wrote, “Some worldviews or political systems are patently bad by the standards of just about anyone other than very staunch ideologues” and gave Naziism and Soviet communism as examples of such extremism. I wouldn’t try to make friends with someone of that ilk, nor would I of the ilk you describe (i.e., an I.S.I.S. supporter); their ideological orientations and commitments would fall far outside the “conventional” one I have just made reference to. And indeed, they could, in practical terms, be seen as a physical threat to me. That’s no way to construct a friendship!

        • Bruce Sallan

          WE agree!

  • Stan Faryna

    In The Four Loves, C.S. Lewis describes several kinds of human relationship. The highest and most worthy of such relationships is defined by a profound commitment to the other with the same passion and necessity for which one is committed to one’s own self (or project). Such friendships, however, are rare and seemingly more rare than before.

    Politics can be problematic because they do, in fact, represent the consequence of our values, education, knowledge, experience, fears, and intimate moral failures. Or lack thereof. On the other hand, politics tends to be irrelevant if our friendship is about lesser objects – the pursuit of fleeting goods and pleasure for example. If we both love the Cornel University BBQ chicken, we don’t have to talk much. We can eat.

    Can I enjoy the company of the village idiot. Sure I can. For a few hours. And I can even hear them out. Even the village idiot has a profound necessity to be heard.

    I also find value in hearing out, understanding and considering different and inferior opinion. [grin] It not only helps me know others and the world in which I find myself, but it also helps me to understand and discover myself.

    • Bruce Sallan

      Deep friendships are rare. As you found with your interchange with Professor Weber @faryna:disqus, he’s a rare bright voice. We’ve been friends for OVER 50 years! He’s my oldest friend – meaning longest friend – since we met in what was then called Nursery School (now: Pre-School). I lost a couple life-long friends along the way and I’m sad for that. Those lasting relationships are impossible to replace. But now, shared values is essential to me for a new friendship. Yes, shared interests like golf or skiing makes for nice but more superficial friends and I do have those…but the deep ones are few, sadly!

  • SharonMomsMadhouse

    You know what I’ve found? It’s not “I” who have trouble with these friendships…it’s them! I have no fear of saying who I am. I’m a Reagan Conservative and a Faithful Byzantine Catholic. (Same thing as Roman catholic, but we chant and stand a lot more) And as soon as peeps find that out, they write me off.

    OR…they find out I have six kids and make their assumptions that I’m a planet hating white person.

    I have yet to unfriend anyone because I disagree with their politics, but I’ve been unfriended by many.

    And let me just say this…my beliefs are grounded, sound and researched, just as those on the other side claim theirs are. I’m sick to death of being called a sheep who blindly follows the marching order of the Pope and Rush Limbaugh.

    Even if it’s true…(kidding, kidding!)

    Yes, these friendships can exist, just as families find a way to stay together with differences of opinions. But if, and only if, BOTH sides are willing. Sheesh…everyone is just so dang angry these days. Relax…breath and for cyin’ out loud just live the best that you can. No one ever said it was easy and the more people who hate me for my beliefs, the more I know I made the right choices. 🙂

    • Bruce Sallan

      Well, I’d be honored to be your friend @sharonmomsmadhouse:disqus since we’re more or less “on the same page” though I only have two kids! I’ve done more of the “unfriending” IRL than the other way around.