Monday, February 18, 2013

The politics of friendship

Ah, yes, the politics of friendship. Or, put another way, the idea that politics defines your friendship. At least for some people. I try not to allow it to affect my friendships; though, to be fair, I have never been above riding someone about their political views. But I would like to think I have never defined my friendships based on political views.

However, it is something that has become a glaring issue in my opinion. I have friends and family members who define their friendships based on their political views and wanting to associate only with politically like-minded individuals. I don't get it and, quite frankly, find it to be a very disturbing concern. Everyone has political views (particularly in the US) and there is a strong vein of politics that permeates American lives because of our history. Further, I am sure that the sense of polarization that is so prevalent today is nothing new and has existed throughout the short history of the US. However, that should still not pose the issue that it does with so many non-political friends and associates of mine.

A short thirty years ago (during the heyday of Reagan), there was a lot of political vitriol between the two political parties in the US, the Republicans and Democrats. Yet, at the end of the day, I remember the stories of the two main leaders of their respective parties (Reagan and Tip O'Neil of the Democrats who was the then-Speaker of the House) getting together to have drinks and engage in friendly conversation. These were the same two men who would put forth great criticisms of each other and their respective views on the issues of the day but they also realized that it was as much political theatre and did not allow it to keep them from being able to interact on other levels for the benefit of each other and the country as a whole. Today, however, the two parties batter each other to a degree that comes close to rivaling the demonization that preceded the genocidal massacre of Tutsis in Rwanda in 1994. And that occurs just on the political level. However, what has followed today is a similar level of demonization on a non-political level by adherents of the various parties.

I have friends and family who will not speak to each other because they hold different political views. Some of them are on the political right and only watch Fox News because it is "fair and balanced" and read the National Review while anything else represents only the political left (those damn liberals!). Some are on the political left and only watch MSNBC and read Mother Jones while abhorring Fox News for being biased (stupid retarded conservatives!). And they will only associate with people who hold similar viewpoints while lambasting those who hold divergent opinions without ever truly attempting to understand them, let alone trying to find a middle ground. The result, of course, is a stark inability to find common ground on a personal level that could be used to help create a framework to help move them (and the country as a whole) forward. This deliberate limitation is amazing and completely idiotic to me. Why would people choose to limit themselves from learning from or about others? I have never understood this and the politicization of these relationships makes it even more difficult to fathom.

Of course, I see this because I tend to adhere to a more moderate set of views that crosses over into both major party platforms so I am not beholden to one or the others. I also prefer to learn as much as I can and do not limit myself to a single source of information - though I also am aware of the various biases that creep up in what passes for "news reporting" today. But the idea that I would allow my political views to dictate my friendships (none of which are "political") is abhorrent to me. And this is in spite of the fact that my degree is in Political Science and I have a fairly well-grounded knowledge base on a number of subjects.

I simply want to take some of these people (who will openly admit to such selective "friendships") and throttle them while asking them what the heck they are thinking in doing such a thing! Maybe I am just an anachronistic relic of an earlier age or an optimist? I hope not. I'd be curious for the feedback of others on this.


  1. What I find inexplicable is that often, those same people who are rabidly against certain political views claim to be the most open-minded.

    Taking other people's ideas and beliefs as an offensive attack against yourself and your ideas is foolish and immature, but it seems to me that that is how some people react.

    It is as if their life is somehow diminished or invalidated by other people having differing beliefs and values.

  2. The first idea is something I've tried to address before in this blog - the idea of double standards. And the idea that you should only associate with people who hold the same political ideas as you ensures that neither of you can learn anything. And, if by some strange chance, you should learn something new and modify your views at all, you've now lost all your friends as a result. Rather lonely world in that case...