- 5 months ago
- Wedding: September 2019
Hello, I’ve been reading these boards for a while as I have been planning my wedding, but recently I’ve started to notice a lot of political posts and it occurred to me that this might be a good place to discuss a dilemma in my life. If anyone has thoughts to share on this, I’d love to hear them! Fair warning for novella length. I think it’s important to make this conversation/debate rooted in humanity, so I want to share a fuller picture of my friend and our relationship. Please feel free to just answer the question posed in the title if you’d rather not read this, either your thoughts on the general question or my specific situation would be interesting to read.
My oldest, closest friend is a wonderful and brilliant person, and she will be my matron of honor at my upcoming wedding. We have been friends since high school, and earlier in our friendship we shared a lot of political opinions and discussing and debating politics, philosophy, and economics was a large part of our bond and friendship. We also bonded over other things like books and food and attending the theater together, but it was always so invigorating and rewarding to have a friend with whom we could go “deep” on important issues. That was hard to find at our age, and I think it led to us really treasuring each other from the start. Disagreements were never an issue and were actually part of the fun- we’ve had so many lively debates over the years and always used to end them feeling energized and like we each learned something. Though we had different thoughts on many issues, we had shared values in the end so it was easy to “agree to disagree”. And when we did agree, we inspired each other and took political action together.
In general, I have always enjoyed being friends with people with all different ways of seeing the world. As a debator in highschool, and just a natural-born devil’s advocate, I have enjoyed and could always appreciate seeing multiple perspectives on issues.
Over the years, this particular friend and I grew separately, but not exactly apart. She pursued a rigorous schooling path and graduated with her master’s degree in a sensible field early, and went on to excel at a great job. She works in business (accounting), but still has her creative spirit and actually recently has switched to more days off from her main job to work on her first novel. I’m immensely proud of her for this. She’s also recently (over the last few years) became a Christian, and then a Catholic. She was raised Catholic but rejected religion before her first communion, but she did maintain conservative values. When we first bonded, we both considered ourselves “economically conservative, socially liberal”. Though she was always very pro-life, and at the time I agreed with her. Anyways, she has become Catholic and married a Catholic man who is honestly a really wonderful, generous, brilliant, compassionate person who has been very good for her. They both are very generous with their time and substantial resources, and volunteer together and separately in many ways. Honestly her faith has made her more patient and compassionate in a way, and she has remained her logical self in many ways- she says that Catholics, for instance, believe in science as well as God, and that the values are consistent, such as opposing the death penalty as well as abortion. She’s also become closer with her conservative family than ever.
Meanwhile, certain circumstances threw off my original school path, but not my ultimate goal. I’ve always been passionate about activism, and when I fell off the traditional schooling path, I ended up exploring opportunities to change the world in different ways. Through this, and through traveling and moving several times and going through many different experiences, I feel that my eyes have been opened to realities of the world and how other people experience it that I didn’t understand from my sheltered background. My political opinions have thus changed quite a bit. Pre-Trump, I’d moved much closer toward the “left”, but wouldn’t say I ascribed to any political party fully. But when Trump ran for office, despite my misgivings on Hilary at the time, it appeared to me a very clear choice. It was not so for my friend. She didn’t vote for either, because while she said she agreed that Trump was pretty awful, she couldn’t bring herself to vote for someone who is pro-choice. I’ve become increasingly liberal during this administration, as I feel that strong oppositional action is absolutely needed. I don’t feel anymore, in this age, that there is time for patience with finding “middle ground” the way there was years ago, especially as then I was much younger and everything was abstract and hypothetical to us. Of course the issues I’m aware of now were always there even when I didn’t know better, but these days things really seem higher stake than they have been in my political lifetime.
My friend, to her end, feels the same, but on the opposite side of the spectrum. She now hates discussing politics at all, because of how people end up arguing. In become closer to her family, she’s become very protective of them, so one cannot say anything negative about Trump supporters without her taking it personally. She still values “pro-life” efforts above all else, and to her it really is a noble fight about saving millions of lives. She felt that way before becoming religious, but now even more so. She cares very much about women’s rights in her way- she donates to organizations that support education for women internationally, and volunteers in her community and church to give financial advice to women and to support young or poor mothers. She really isn’t coming from a callus, or anti-women space. She does however say that she cannot agree with feminism, because she thinks it’s unfair to men and because it’s pro-choice. She’s felt shoved out of the feminist sphere as a white, straight, educated, wealthy woman who is pro-life. She also feels that she has never experienced oppression due to being a woman, and therefore thinks that the idea that women experience inequality in the U.S. is largely exaggerated.
So, the dilemma is that these days we’re both finding it harder and harder to agree to disagree. We can’t discuss politics at all anymore without both ending up upset. We are still able to discuss other things of course, and that has been what our friendship has been standing on recently. We do have some other shared interests, but at times things between us feel precariously balanced on those. Since we haven’t been in the same city or state for years, we don’t get the opportunity to have many shared hobbies or experiences other than dinners and such when we visit each other. We run in very different circles, mine sprung from my activist work and hers spring from her church. To me, these issues have become more than abstract political ideas that can be glossed over in polite company. People are experiencing very real consequences to dangerous policies, and so much more is still at risk. It’s hard for me to keep all of that to myself when talking to the person who it used to always be easiest and most rewarding to talk to. I don’t feel like we learn from each other anymore, when we both stand our ground because we both think it’s a matter of life and death. So we try to avoid talking politics at all these days, but I’m finding that it infiltrates so many things. Like when we went to see Aquaman with our partners, and I made a brief comment during the previews that I liked a certain add that promoted valuing “people over profit”, and she scoffed as she watched it because of the way it “villified capitalism”. I also commented after that I thought the movie was fun but that it was kind of hilarious and annoying how the main female character maintained perfect hair and makeup through the movie. To me it was a lighthearted joke, but to her I was being an overly touchy feminist. We ended up in a debate and she was embarrassed that we we’re arguing in front of her husband (meanwhile, my fiance supported me 100% and was glad I stood my ground as the conversation turned to more serious issues like rape culture). She argued that toxic masculinity isn’t a thing, and that its a sexist term. As a long time activist against rape culture and sexual violence, I could not abide that, and it became an actual “fight” argument that left us both reeling until we both tenatively apologized and forged a sliver of common ground to stand on.
With all that’s happening this week, I barely want to talk to her at all, because I know in her circle she’s celebrating the lives that are saved, while my heart is breaking and I feel afraid and angry. We’ll continue to tiptoe around each other, I suppose, keeping the conversation to non-controversial pop culture and wedding flowers. But that makes what was once the most rewarding friendship of my life into something so surface level that it’s painful. I also feel that part of the problem is this sense that I’m compromising my own values. I found myself changing the privacy settings as I shared some posts about the abortion bills this week, just because I don’t want her to see them. I don’t care if anyone else disagrees, and I’ve never done something like that before, but I know it would harm our friendship if she saw those posts. However, I still feel compelled to share them and speak out and raise the voices of others during this time, so I’m not the type to just keep quiet about politics in general. I think doing so is an excercise in privelege that we can’t afford right now. I don’t think it’s the time to be quiet to keep peace.
I know my friend to be a brilliant, hilarious, creative, passionate, thoughtful person, and I truly love her and her mind and heart. She is not the selfish, ignorant conservative caricature that is so easy to write off. She’s also been a wonderful matron of honor so far, and I am very grateful to her for that. But there is no denying the impact these issues have caused on our relationship, and ultimately I do think that fighting for what we each believe in will triumph, because that is the kind of people we are. It’s just sort of heartbreaking.
If you’ve read my novella- can anyone relate to this experience? In this age, I can’t imagine I’m alone in this.
Thanks for reading, bees. I look forward to your thoughts.