I don’t think political differences should divide friends and family

Bernie v. Hillary is tearing families apart! My Facebook is full of it. The whole thing is amusing, actually, since it’s been so long since I’ve seen a genuine difference of opinion amongst my friends. Normally it’s so clear what the party line is when it comes to anything political. Although there’s always a sense that somewhere out in the world there are people who believe differently (on Black Lives Matters, on warrantless wiretapping, on Snowden, on [insert liberal cause here]), I rarely see much evidence of those other viewpoints amongst people I actually know. But Bernie v. Hillary hasn’t yet reached that tipping point in either direction.

Which means that a lot of people are having the newfound experience of disagreeing with someone with whom they normally agree (for my part, my girlfriend has now several times questioned me about why I’m not incredibly stoked for Bernie).

And I think that for too many people, this experience of disagreement is too much! Maybe it’s that they’re used to consensus, but Bernie v. Hillary is driving them up the wall and into the next room, and they simply can’t understand how their friends / family/ lovers / coworkers could believe differently.

Which is fine. It’s totally okay to think other people are completely wrong. You do not need to pretend that you think unreasonable viewpoints are reasonable.

But what I don’t understand is allowing political differences to interfere with your personal relationships.

I know that to many people this is a no-brainer. Standard party line is that if a family member makes a racist joke, you stop visiting them; if a friend supports Trump, you unfriend them; if your girlfriend turns out to be a Republican, you break up.

But to me that stuff all seems pretty minor. It’s a decision you make once every two years: “Which of these boxes should I tick?”

Obviously you shouldn’t continue to be close to someone with whom you have a major difference in values. But in my mind, ‘values’ means personal values. If you have major differences with someone regarding how to live or how to behave, then that’s a problem. If you have a friend who treats people cruelly, then they shouldn’t be your friend anymore. If your girlfriend doesn’t want to have a family and you do, then you’ve got problems. If your family member thinks you owe them financial support and you don’t agree, then you’re effectively ending that relationship.

But political differences aren’t that. They seem relatively minor. What happened to just not talking about it? That used to be the standard advice in these situations, right? Don’t bring up religion and politics. And if you start arguing with someone about one or the other, then just end the argument and go away until you’ve both simmered down. Then make a mental note to never bring up that topic with them ever again. That, to me, is far preferable to losing someone who’s important to you.

One thought on “I don’t think political differences should divide friends and family

  1. Sean Patrick Hazlett

    “[F]or my part, my girlfriend has now several times questioned me about why I’m not incredibly stoked for Bernie”

    Ah, because you have a BA in Economics?

    Sorry, but I just couldn’t resist. 😉

    But in all seriousness, politics have become WAY too polarizing in this country. And the level of political discourse has now reached kindergarten level. The Republican candidates are basically caricatures of the reactionary conservative stereotype and the Democratic candidates either engage in behavior that, had I done the same thing as a military officer, would haven earned me twenty years in Leavenworth (Hillary) or support ideologies that would have been unthinkable a few years ago (Sanders).

    Either way, I think the era of Pax Americana is ending and we are beginning the inexorable slide of every great empire into the veritable dustbin of history.

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