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The Politics of Friendship
Posted by David Tirsch on Sep 1, 2003 - 11:42:00 AM
If you did a study, I would bet that an even amount of conservatives and liberals enjoyed the sarcasm in the movie Airplane, watched the SuperBowl, and even laugh when someone incorporates the nostalgic saying, "Where's The Beef?" into a conversation. The question of how people can share so much in common, but have completely opposing political views is a discussion for a different time. The question I want to explore here is, in a post-9/11 world, if you are a liberal, should you maintain a friendship with a conservative, and vice versa?
One of my closest friends (I'll call him Ed in this article) has completely opposite political views to mine. It is really weird how we see eye to eye on everything from movies, relationships, and comedy and can talk for hours about everything and nothing, but once politics are mentioned we become as estranged towards each other as the odd couple does regarding cleanliness. It is so extreme that during The Gulf War II, I attended Pro-America rallies, while he attended Anti-War rallies.
Pre-9/11, spirited debate with him about the days' topics ranging from the environment to welfare was healthy and enjoyable, and we usually met somewhere in the middle. But in the post-9/11 world where global issues of life and death are on the line and America's place in the world are paramount, the debates now focus solely on anger and rage towards the other persons "ignorance." Never before has our nation been so polarized. Can you still be friends with someone that you feel is working to put America on a path of destruction, but they love the Dodgers like you do?!
You can use this same dilemma of separating the person from their politics in regards to the arts. Beethoven and Chopin were Anti-Semitic, yet they created masterpieces. Should you not listen to their works because of their beliefs? Mark Twain was believed to be a racist, yet he has written some of the most wonderful novels in American history. Should you not read Mark Twain? I have followed the rule of talk show host Dennis Prager in that you can separate the artistic gifts the universe has given someone from the person. It is the work that is enjoyed, and not the person.
But unlike art, where you do not have an intimate relationship with the artist, you do have that relationship with friends who have opposing political views. If you took political views out of the equation all together, I am convinced that you could get along with just about anybody. If I went to Afghanistan and met a radical Al Qaeda Terrorist member for lunch at Baja Fresh (I know they don't have a Baja Fresh there, but in 5 years under American guidance, who knows), and kept politics completely out of the conversation, I could get along with him. I could probably see him as a friendly, decent person. I bet if he walked in first, he would open the door for me, and even pay the bill because I was a guest in his country. I bet we could even go see a movie together and laugh at the same things. Add the politics, and the reality sets in that he wants to kill me, and is against everything that I stand for. If we could just keep politics out of our lives, we would all be one giant happy, touchy-feely world, right?
There are far too many differing opinions about the direction our country (let alone the world) should go to think politics could ever be ignored. Democracy is at its healthiest when opposing views are debated. Today, it is more difficult because both sides hate each other with enough passion to think the other side is trying to throw America, and everything it stands for into a wastebasket. Today, either side is so polarized it is as if we are in a non-violent civil war! So to answer my original question: I could maintain my friendship, I just am not sure if I should. It is difficult to remain friends with someone that I believe is trying to lead our country into destruction. Could you remain friends with someone that was trying to destroy your life? Then why would you think your country isn't an extension of yourself?
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