“I have never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.”
– Thomas Jefferson
There used to be a colleague of whom I did not consider a close friend, but looked forward to seeing every shift I was scheduled. He is long gone by now, but whenever our shifts coincided, our conversations were unmistakably engrossing. Thirty minute lunches with him felt like five, and I was always disappointed to have to clock in and get back to work because that meant we’d be on separate registers. Incidentally, however, this same person wrote a hateful response to my article on Charlottesville, which defended President Trump’s statement that many sides were responsible for the outbreak in violence. He proceeded to unfriend and never speak to me again. “Oh well I guess,” I thought to myself.
I was surprised to see this person cut ties with me on such short notice, especially considering that if our opinions on the matter were really that black and white, then we could sit down at a coffee shop for an hour or two and try to sort through them without resorting to personal attacks against the opposing party. But he didn’t want to do that, instead opting to outright condemn me for the expression of an opinion that he did not agree with. It was unfortunate to say the least, because some of my closest friends, maybe even my best friends, overlook differences in political opinion with the aim of preventing destructive, friendship-ending arguments.
But let’s assume that you and I got into a heated debate about politics. I would preface my case by stating that I indeed support our president and have supported him since the day he announced his campaign. Why, then, should that shift our perceptions of each other? Perhaps you voted for Trump last year—that’s great. Perhaps you voted for Clinton—that’s great. Or perhaps you voted third party or didn’t vote at all—once again, that’s great. However, I’ll reemphasize that just because our politics do not align, that is not a cause to terminate our friendship. More importantly, if you’re going to personally attack or demean me in spite of an alternative opinion, then I’m not the one with the problem.
Politics and religion can hit close to home because one deals with sensitive issues like healthcare, immigration, and education, while the other deals with core beliefs that give you a reason to keep breathing. However, they are not much different from the sports you watch, the video games you play, or the books you read in that they amount to nothing more than likes, dislikes, and personal preferences, and thus you should not take them so seriously. Nonetheless, if you think it would be within your best interest to stop talking to me simply on the basis of whom I voted for in the last election, I’ll be sad to see you go. Because there’s nothing we can’t work out over a cup of hot chocolate and a productive conversation. Until then, let’s agree to disagree and just be friends.