I started writing yesterday about a political disagreement that ended in someone who once referred to me as “one of the very chosen few in the inner circle of [her] life” publicly declaring me no longer a friend.
Today I am revealing the topic of debate in hopes that friends can, indeed, disagree.
If you are unable to maintain a friendship over disagreement on a single issue, I feel it proves you to be intolerant. It makes you an enemy of your cause because I’m likely to associate you (and possibly your cause) with fanaticism and irrational fear. You have not won anything for that which you campaign, instead you have willingly abandoned the opportunity to discourse with someone who once held esteem for you.
In actual fact, what you are saying is “I was wrong about you – I don’t like or respect you at all, and cannot stand to have contact with you because you are so foul; if I had ever known you believed this way, I never would have been your friend in the first place.”
And to me, that is the worst sort of hubris and the least civilized part of human nature. “If you are not like me, then I will drive you away.” We have been fighting against that mentality since the beginning of recorded time and it has caused nothing but problems for humanity.
I guess the only reason I can imagine that I would not want to be a person’s friend any more would be that level of intolerance. If you are unable, or worse unwilling, to hear the viewpoint of another and agree to disagree, if you are unable to find any sort of common ground, I you dole out hatred or withhold love over a single issue than I am probably not a good fit for you as a friend.
Though you can expect that I will listen to you with respect. And if you would like to move me into the “crazy friend” category and have more careful contact with me, that’s alright. I will likely be doing the same with you, but it isn’t going to change the things about you that I already liked in the first place. It is okay with me if you are judging that area of my life, I’m probably doing it too – but so long as we are doing it in order to understand one another and maintain our relationship I say no problemo. And I’m probably going to work hard not to offend you in this area, because I don’t own you and it isn’t my job to make you think like I do.
If you did come up with a deal-breaker in terms of friendship yesterday, I hope it wasn’t over gun control.
I have been a political orphan my whole life. I grew up in a home with a Canadian parent (liberal and statist) and a tea party-esque parent (ultra-conservative). This was a great contributor to my understanding of tolerance and my confidence in the ability of people to disagree and continue to hold one another in a positive light. As an adult, especially once we began homeschooling and undertook a thorough review of American History, I began to have more and more in common with the Libertarian party (click here to learn about Libertarian Philosophy and here to read a great compilation of rebuttals to objections to Libertarian views). The Libertarian ideals of personal responsibility alongside their fiscally conservative/socially liberal platforms lined up with my understanding of what America was meant to be. During the last presidential election, I finally felt like I had some choices that I liked because I was paying attention to third-party players. In terms of gun control, I am a firm supporter of the second amendment and staunchly against more firearms regulations.
If you disagree with me about gun control, and especially if you live in the New York area, I encourage you to exercise your First Amendment rights and contact my friend Christine at Quasi Agitato. She is a part of the Million Moms For Gun Control movement and is hosting a rally in NYC on MLK day.
And whatever your position is on any of the most intense questions of our day, I encourage you not just to tolerate, but to seek out, read about, study and consider each side of the issue. One of the best ways to do that is to talk with people you like, respect and care for.
If there is someone you respect and care for who feels differently than you and you find that discussing it causes too much friction, I hope you can be considerate of one another. Change the subject. Stick to the topics you enjoy sharing, relish the places you have common ground and above all, treasure your relationship.
Your comments yesterday were so helpful and insightful. I feel I have a better understanding of what this person was feeling (she really does class me as a child-abuser and does believe anyone who disagreed with her is extreme whackadoodle and out of their mind). I also have a new perspective on my own treatment of sensitive issues among others, especially those whose relationship I take for granted.
These problems are problems we are facing all together. They can only be resolved by educating ourselves, listening to one another, and giving each side a face and a name; because each side represents real people. First we must truly care about each other, only then can we start dealing with the issues that bind us (whether we like it or not).