The Politics of Friendship
Politics and Friends
There are no shortages when it comes to the number of ways that we can find to trouble ourselves. It troubles me to pay the current price for a gallon of gas or go to the grocery store. It’s troubling to turn on the TV and be bombarded by the high number of increasingly vicious political attack ads. Although, as troubling as these things may seem; they will have a finite live span; but what really bothers me or what is ‘truly’ troubling is what has happened to some of my friends… friends with whom I survived a far more disquieting time... the 60's.
We went to concerts together, sat around candle lit rooms passing fun stuff wrapped in cigarette papers, listened the same music and railed against Nixon and the war. We were part of a collective mind set that as a generation we could and would change the world.
We moved on- different towns, states and even countries. From time to time our paths would cross in an airport, a reunion or the occasional phone call. We would marvel at what we were doing, where we had been and how good the good old days really were. Because of our common experiences we just assumed we still felt as passionate about the same things today as we did back then.
We find ourselves, once again, going through some very unsettling and difficult to understand times. I still believe we made a difference in this world and where our optimism may have been dialed back a notch, trending more towards realism and less idealism, we made a positive and lasting impact on politics, the environment and how we felt towards each other.
What troubles me is the direction that more than a few of my old friends and peers have settled into. With Facebook, good or bad, friendships have come full circle. I now know that some of my high school chums have grandchildren and a few even great grandchildren. I learned of the passing of teachers, classmates and what has happened to old schools and institutions; but what has left me dumfounded is how much friends have changed.
It seems that somewhere between the 90’s and 2008, they have become bitter, hurtful, less understanding and taken up lashing out and blaming everyone and everything for what has caused ‘change’ in their lives. The need to find fault or cast blame has given rise to hatred and mistrust. Liberal friends have taken a ‘360’ and are now staunch Conservatives. Their transformation has led them in the direction of racism, disdain for black and brown people or anyone who wants to come to this country.Basically anyone who doesn’t look like them should not be able to partake in what is great about this countrty. They now embrace the socioeconomics of ‘I’ve got mine, screw you- you’re on your own’. The less fortunate have become pariahs and invisible and compromise has become a dirty word.
The President is not as much the President but rather a squatter in a ‘white’ house whose very citizenship they doubt. Where in the past, we would laugh at people like Rush Limbaugh and turn down the sound on FOX and make up our own dialogue; there is now blind loyalty and any one who offers an opposing view is not 'American' enough for them. Just mention the President and you had better be prepared to 'duck and cover'. Their passion has turned into venomous, emotional diatribes. I have had to un-friend individuals just to avoid uncomfortable and needless confrontations.
Unfortunately, I believe I’m not the only one who has experienced these changes with friends. I also believe that such relationships will most likely get worse before hopefully getting better. Where it is said elections make strange bedfellows; elections also make enemies out of friends.
The good thing is the election will soon come to an end. Although I am not quite sure what will happen to some of these affected friendships, when its all said and done and the dust settles; I'm going to reach out to these friends, my friends whose smiles had changed, whose hearts had grown cold and to those whose optimism had changed to foreboding. I will reach out for the smiles, the hearts and the optimism we will all need again when the election is over.