Just a few years ago, if you had told me, “You’ll choose not be friends with someone because of their politics,” I would have absolutely disagreed.
Pass on a friendship because of politics?
No way would I do that.
But – I did that.
Jane and I had worked for the same company, different departments, for several years. When we saw each other in the hall or lunchroom we’d chat, mostly about work. I enjoyed Jane’s sense of humor and her take on company politics.
Jane moved on to another company, but before she left, she invited me to lunch. I thought it could be fun, so we set a date.
And our lunch was fun.
Until Jane brought up politics:
“Did you hear what those dumbass Democrats did?”
I kept quiet as she then recounted the latest offensive things the “dumbass Democrats” said about Trump, the bills they were wasting their time passing in the House because Mitch McConnel (“Thank God for him!”) would never bring them to the floor, and sang the praises of Lindsay Graham (“Brilliant!”).
All of which I disagreed with. Vehemently – but internally.
I was resolved to “disagree without being disagreeable.” I thought Jane and I had a potential for friendship, and in the future we could just agree to disagree.
Then she said, “I wish people would just leave Trump alone to do his job.”
To say I loathe Trump would be putting it mildly.
And I was struggling with the hard evidence that Jane actually believed what Trump says, and lauds what he does.
Jane was an intelligent woman, after all.
I said, “You don’t think Russia interfered in the 2016 election?”
“Trump and Ukraine?”
“The Democrats failed in their first witch hunt and impeachment will fail, too.”
I paused, realizing I was about to put the last nail in the coffin of this potential friendship.
“And the 24 women who’ve accused Trump of sexual assault?”
“All of them?” I said.
“All of them.”
Now Jane had a question of her own:
“What do you think of Trump?”
In my calmest tone I told her. Jane’s eyes grew wider as I used the words “psychopath,” “narcissist” and “misogynist.”
We sat in silence for a moment, then moved onto other topics.
But not for long. We split the bill, said good-bye, and before I’d even arrived at my car, I knew I wouldn’t see Jane again.
And I knew Jane felt the same way.
I just couldn’t respect a Trump supporter – and I believe respect is a critical part of any friendship, any relationship.
I’d passed on a friendship because of politics.
“Agree to disagree” doesn’t work anymore in a country as polarized as ours.
And it gets worse.
Because This Polarization Is Dividing Families, Too
My friend Deborah had been invited to lunch by her adult son. Deborah had had run-ins with her son before about Trump – he’s a strong supporter and she’s exactly the opposite – and she’d realized that if they were going to have quality time together, it was best to not discuss politics.
They met for lunch and all was going well. At some point Deborah started telling her son about a movie she’d seen – a good, safe topic, since they both loved movies.
The movie was Icebox, about the horrendous conditions that immigrant children are subjected to. “But immigrants come here and break out laws,” her son insisted, “and deserve to be locked up. What happens to their kids is their fault.”
“This was by far the worst run-in we’ve had,” she later said to me. “He threw all kinds of things at me verbally, then got up and walked out of the restaurant.
“I thought I was just talking about a movie.”
This wouldn’t have happened three years ago.
Where does this leave Deborah and her son?
Where does this leave any of us?
Right where Trump wants us:
I – we – have allowed Trump to divide and conquer us.
Thanksgiving 2019: Now Trump’s “Divide and Conquer”
Has Divided My Family
My younger brothers have always been close, and probably closer than most:
They’re identical twins.
They not only look alike, they share many personality traits and preferences.
But over the years, one way they’ve differed is politics.
And over the past three years, that difference has become much more pronounced.
One brother is conservative.
One brother is liberal.
Conservative is single.
Liberal is married and has a stepdaughter. His wife and stepdaughter are also liberals.
Liberal had invited Conservative for Thanksgiving and an overnight stay. Conservative had gladly accepted, and offered to bring the pie.
The four sat down together for a beautiful dinner of turkey and all the trimmings. “We turned off the TV,” Liberal told me later, “so we could talk and focus on each other.”
And everything went well.
Until someone mentioned Trump.
Voices were raised, then raised voices became shouting. Conservative insisted, “Why can’t you see the good things Trump has done?”
The three liberals insisted just as strongly that Trump does no good at all.
What started so well had deteriorated into a Trump-divided-and-conquered disaster.
Deteriorated so badly that Conservative packed his things back into his overnight bag, and left.
The pie went uneaten.