When A Friend Switches Political Sides
Differences in political ideology puts a friendship to the vote
My good friend from college has recently done a 180 in ideology. Once liberal, she has become a born again conservative. I do believe most of the information and encouragement she has for this is from her husband who was a born and bred Republican. Recently she told me they were going on a weekend trip to attend a Glenn Beck rally. I often try avoiding discussion religion/politics with her, but I’m reaching a point where it gets harder and harder. I care very much for her and her 16 month old daughter. Do I just play up being crazy liberal auntie from the city and avoid discussions about these topics. Or do I fade away?
Red, White and Oh So Blue
Oh, a toughie. Since this was asked over the internet, I was able to ask some clarifying questions. And stall for time.
Are the qualities that made you care about her still there? And she knows you are a crazy liberal, right? Why does she tell you she is seeing Glenn Beck, is she teasing you, or is she just mentioning it?
RedWhiteBlue answered: Yes. She’s so kind and funny and has seen me through marriage and divorce. And yes, she does know my political leanings. She teases her husband about it too, like suggesting that dancing at her daughters wedding might involve bare feet in the woods and another woman. She tends to mention things like this in passing – like “we’re going on vacation.” When I ask where, she says “To a Glenn Beck rally” then “Do you know who that is?” and when I say “Yes…I hear about him on NPR” she says “Oh they say he’s a bad man, right?”
When Everyone Shutting Up is for The Best
This is such a hard question for me to answer. I believe that for the most part, you can’t separate politics from the person. People are their politics. Especially if they consider themselves politically active, feel strongly, or are outspoken and I think, especially when it comes down to how we should handle social issues. Differing from someone on how we should tax foreign trade is different than your opinions on civil rights.
Personally, I don’t have any friends that I am aware of that have vastly different political opinions than my own, especially when it comes to certain issues. I definitely don’t choose to befriend Glenn Beck supporters. But – I do know some, and while I wouldn’t have chosen their company, as long as we don’t discuss politics – I’ve had the time of my life with some of them. But, these aren’t people I could choose–they are family. So, I am stuck with them, for better or for worse. But I find that when people actively want to restrict other people’s freedoms and glorify fear and hatred – it seeps into their pores. And those generally don’t make wonderful friends.
So, how does any of this help you? I’m not sure. I think the first step is to make sure you aren’t blaming the husband, because obviously she was attracted to this guy for some reason, and knew of his politics. Unless you think something sinister is going on, your friend is accountable for her own thoughts and beliefs.
And then the other step? Really, really, really avoid politics. Not just as the elephant in the room, but as an active “I really would rather not discuss that. How’s the cutiepie doing?” And if it ever becomes so big of an elephant where it sits on all of you? Well, then – that isn’t the friend that you knew and loved. She’s moved on and maybe you should too.
I suppose I should add here that there is an opportunity to learn more about the people who hold your opposing viewpoint and see if you can find common ground. So, I’ll add it because that seems like responsible advice. But I am generally pretty tired of trying to find common ground with people who are advocating intolerance.
photo credit: polymer owls by Jenn and Tony Bot