Is Trump Why We Cannot Be Friends Anymore?

 “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.

Who is to Blame for the Violence in Charlottesville?

On Saturday, August 12th, 2017, a rally called “Unite the Right” took place in Charlottesville, Virginia. It was there white nationalists congregated to protest the removal of a Confederate statue. Counterprotesters soon arrived to harass the rally participants, with the situation escalating into chaotic exchanges of violence. One person, Heather D. Heyer, 35, died when a car rammed through a group of counterprotesters, and another two state troopers died in a freak helicopter crash.

The conflict that erupted in Charlottesville was not self-contained, but the result of an accumulation of lingering resentments that resurfaced, either from the 2016 presidential election or from the current political climate that we live in. It is an extension of one of the worst ideological rifts in our country’s history, and another clear demonstration of two opposing groups’ inability to sort through their differences rationally.

It should not be understated that both radical conservatives and progressive liberals are at fault here, as President Trump was quoted with saying on Tuesday that “I think there’s blame on both sides.” Trump subsequently received scrutiny for not specifically condemning the KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists. Nonetheless, the counterprotesters (i.e.: Black Lives Matter & ANTIFA) are just as guilty of inciting violence and causing discord as they were. That’s not to say that I agree with what the KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists stand for—their values are acutely incompatible with everything I believe in. However, at Charlottesville, there were no white knights.

Police officers, too, have received scrutiny for not “keeping the peace.” At the same time, whether you’re on the right or left, a police officer or just a regular citizen, these days it is virtually impossible for you to understand another person’s point-of-view (and even sympathize with it) because “he or she is not on your side.” And it’s this attitude of taking sides that’s spiraling what are supposed to be peaceful protests completely out of control.

Turn the clocks back to March 11, 2016, when the Trump campaign cancelled a rally at the University of Illinois in Chicago because of increasing safety concerns. Footage shows Bernie Sanders supporters disrupting the event by shoving, harassing, and shouting at Trump supporters. You did not see this kind of animosity during the 2008 and 2012 presidential elections, and even post-2016 presidential election, tensions between the right and left continue to soar, with Charlottesville illustrating that uncomfortable reality.

Generally speaking, people should discuss their opinions rather than attack them. In the case of Charlottesville, it would have saved three lives, and in the case of the University of Illinois, voters would have been able to see their preferred candidate in person without any disturbances. This behavior should of course not be solely encouraged of protesters and counterprotesters, but of all Trump supporters and former Clinton supporters alike, Democrats and Republicans, males and females, and people. No matter your beliefs, age, gender, or skin color, the best way to diffuse any conflict is through simply talking about it first. And even if you find yourself in disagreement with someone else, what exactly do you think that throwing punches and shouting obscenities are going to accomplish?

Obviously the KKK, neo-Nazis, and white supremacists should be vehemently condemned by anyone with a modicum of common decency, but the fact remains that violence will always be unproductive, no matter who it comes from.

Conflict resolution is a skill. Let’s all start practicing it before the next civil war breaks out.