The Politics of Friendship

A while back, I wrote about how I could no longer maintain friendships with conservatives that I know. In retrospect, it wasn’t an article worth writing.

At the time, I was still sorting through my moral convictions and struggling to give myself permission to have political opinions. So I pulled a lot of punches while trying to describe my problem with conservatives, inadvertently made said article more divisive by saying “conservatives” when what I should’ve said was “Trump supporters,” and ultimately didn’t end up feeling like I had really taken a meaningful stand with my post.

But forget the weak writing. By far, my worst failing was in not even sticking to my newfound principles. For everything that I said about cutting ties with Trump supporters (if you’ll allow the addendum to stand), I didn’t actually make a move to cut anyone off.

I wish I had a good reason for this, but I only have a stupid one: I was too afraid to end a particular long friendship “over politics.” That’s it. Even after a solid year, or almost two years, of being at my absolute limit with this person’s opinions and attitude, I still couldn’t bring myself to click the Unfriend button.

I could go into more and more detail about my justifications for keeping the peace, but my reasons would still be just as stupid now as they were at the time. I knew I was only holding on for the sake of not rocking the boat, yet I was afraid to rock the boat all the same.

But within the last couple of weeks, I decided to just flip the boat over.

You see, like everyone else I’ve been watching racial tensions in the United States rise to a fever pitch and eventually hit what looks like a tipping point. I’ve vacillated between outrage and a tentative hope for change more times than I can even count. I’ve been spreading awareness, donating money, and really caring about a cause. I’ve been talking to friends that I don’t normally discuss politics or social issues with, and for the most part I’ve been supported, heard, and pleasantly surprised at how many people are on my side in this fight.

But then my aforementioned Trump-supporting friend posted something that, for the sake of simplicity, I’m just going to describe as tone-deaf. Too tone-deaf for me to ignore, although I did just that for almost anything political that he posted recently.

So I commented on the post.

And he replied to my comment.

And I replied again, and he replied again, and we argued about what’s racism and what isn’t, and which one of us is the problem with America, and which one of us doesn’t respect the other’s opinion, and yadda yadda yadda….

It got a lot uglier than I expected, I’ll be honest. I didn’t anticipate that me pointing out an issue I had with a post on Facebook was going to lead to a Come-to-Jesus talk, or that the talk was quickly going to devolve into a litany of personal failings throughout the many years of our friendship.

I guess that’s what I get for trying to talk politics with someone I disagree with. Or, as was more particularly the issue here, trying to talk about racism with someone who didn’t care enough about me to fucking listen when I told them that their actions were hurting me. You know, whichever.

But in the end, I dropped the subject and I still didn’t end up Formally Declaring an Unfriending. Not so much because I lost my nerve as because I realized it would be an empty gesture. Because from my perspective, the friendship had already ended.

I suppose you could still say that I ended this friendship “over politics” and be more or less correct, but I’d say it’s a little more nuanced. Politics were what spurred me to reevaluate the friendship, yes. But at the end of the day, I didn’t cut off a friend for being a Trump supporter.

What ultimately made me walk away was a conversation about race where I realized that our “friendship” was sadly devoid of compassion, empathy, or respect.

Politics aside, if that’s the quality of a friendship, there should be no shame about tossing it in the trash.

Author: Bryanna Doe

Author, storyteller, comedian, songwriter.