I’ve considered myself good at curating my list of friend groups. As an introverted type, I don’t have many to begin with, and the ones I do are the ones I like the most. Those are also the ones I agree with on most things. I’m all for debate among friends – a lot of great conversation has stemmed from differences in perspective and opinion, and I’ve left the conversation feeling intellectually stimulated and really proud of my abilities to draw and keep friends like the ones I have. Some will tell you that surrounding yourself with like-minded people just plops you into an echo-chamber existence that ultimately makes you less of a well-rounded individual. That may be true sometimes, but it’s not true when it comes to politics.
Politics aren’t the same as choosing a side in Captain America: Civil War, a drawing of lines with issues that don’t really affect you or anyone else. But that’s not the case with legislation that determines how we live, that determines how some of us remain disenfranchised and vulnerable while others are made stronger. Legislation based in other’s bigotry that denies justice and safety to groups that need it. It’s not the same as thinking Taylor Swift really did deserve the VMA for Video of the Year over Beyonce. You can have poor taste in music videos and still be an okay person, but you can’t get away with having poor taste in politicians.
Politics are as divisive as they are complex. Even if you can agree on broad things, the smaller ones could easily sow division. I have friends who are ardent Hillary Clinton supporters, friends who are still determined to see Bernie Sanders in the White House, friends who plan on backing Jill Stein. I even have friends who don’t plan on voting at all because they’re so disillusioned with the present state of politics. Though these choices aren’t mine, and I disagree with some of them, I can see why they’re attractive to others. And I know that these people have the same ideals I do, even if they want to achieve them in a different way.
Like voting for a presidential candidate, you don’t always end up friends who agree with you on every little thing, and I haven’t. I’m better for it, but I’ll always draw a line at the intricate but still substantial differences among me and my friends and the wide gaps between between me and others.
So now that we know who my friends are, let’s talk about who their friends are.
I’ve got a (former) friend from grade school – we also went to highschool together – who posts religiously about Hillary Clinton’s corruption and how she refuses to vote for her. This is neither unusual nor all that offensive. I’m not that excited about voting for Hillary myself. Yet a few minutes later this person will happily post photos of her close, like-family friends in their Trump 2016 t-shirts, transforming their Trump support into a not-so-funny little joke about her superior taste in t-shirts.
Pro-tip: The problem with Trump supporters isn’t that they have poor taste in t-shirts. I wish that were the problem.
Maybe it’s too much to ask that other people exhibit the same caution I do in curating their social groups, but it feels off to me that you can believe so fully in one thing and still pal around happily with people who believe the exact opposite. If this can be considered a skill, stomaching recreational and emotional relationships with people who don’t blink at blatantly racist, misogynistic and downright idiotic rhetoric – I don’t have it. And I don’t want it.
I once thought it was sophisticated and mature not to allow political differences to come between me and other people. That’s what we’re told. That it’s important to maintain perspective and not let our relationships be undone by something as small and insignificant as politics. But that’s not what politics are. They divide us because we don’t all think the same, and unfortunately some of us think so little – about consequences and about those different from us – that those divisions become necessary.
But what about those people I’m avoiding you ask? The ones who have such dangerous thoughts? If i don’t talk to them, if we all retreat to our respective corners, then what will that do? If I were really interested in change, wouldn’t I try a dialogue with these people? Not necessarily. If I were looking for a dialogue I hoped would change their minds and educate them, I wouldn’t be looking to have that with my friends. I shouldn’t have to explain how certain policies dehumanize me to my friends, and I definitely shouldn’t have to listen to my friends rationalize those same policies. While I’ll write it out on the internet