“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.” – Thomas Jefferson
We are a polarized country. The 2016 presidential campaign saw the popular vote go to the Democratic candidate while the electoral vote went to the Republican. Now, two weeks after Republican Donald Trump was inaugurated as president, the two sides seem further apart than ever with neither listening to the other. They are shouting past each other on a daily basis.
The lack of understanding from both sides reminds of the very popular 1990s novel, “Men Are From Mars, Women Are From Venus,” that explored the differences between men and women.
I was talking with a friend today about the state of current politics, noting that I had never seen the country so divided. And then I stopped, thought a moment, and said, “But when George W. Bush was elected, everyone was polarized, and then it continued into Barack Obama.” And she said, “I wrote a paper in college [for her political science class] on how polarized the country was at that time.”
That was in the 1980s.
A difference from the past, I told her, is that this time I have so many friends on the right and on the left, so I’m talking with both and hearing the absolute refusal to, in some cases, acknowledge that there could be at least a little something that’s worth acknowledging in the opposite camp.
Friends are splitting from friends, in some cases people they have known since high school or college. Two of my very close friends, one on the right and one on the left, have done just that. I find it sad. When there is someone who has been a part of our lives for that many years, and now they cannot listen to each other or, maybe better, just agree to not talk about it, it is a sad state of affairs that one or the other, or both, feel they must end that longtime friendship. It doesn’t speak well for the future of the country.
We cannot have a conversation.
After the election in November, I tuned out of any kind of TV news. I spent from the first part of November through New Year’s watching holiday movies, and the only news I read to stay in the loop was online, and little of that. Sadly, when I tuned back in as Congress returned to Washington, TV news again sucked me in. A week later, Virginia’s General Assembly returned to Richmond. Two weeks after that the inauguration was held in D.C.
And it’s been turmoil ever since.
Communication is always good. Shouting is not. Talking over someone as they try to make a point, is not. Refusing to have a rational debate, is not. Screaming at each other when no one can hear, is not.
And losing friendships over politics is crazy. Mr. Jefferson was correct.