Yesterday I got into a Facebook tussle with an old friend over a political disagreement. I used the word “bullshit” and regret it now. It flies in the face of what I’ve learned about people and politics.
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The subject was the bin Laden death photos and whether they should be released. She says yes, I say no. She was respectful about it, I wasn’t.
I used to look at people as enemies when I disagreed with their politics, just like I saw people with deformities or other differences as freaks. You might be thinking it’s a stretch to link politics with people who are physically different, but in my sometimes distorted mind, the thinking that triggers the response is the same.
The younger me wanted to be better than everyone else in how I looked and what kinds of politics I practiced. And I took both very seriously. Too seriously.
The fate of the world always seemed to hang on the next election. In 1994, when I was a lot more liberal than I am today, I felt devastated and depressed when the GOP swept both chambers of Congress. Two years before that, when Bill Clinton was elected president, I thought all would be right with the world. A lot of people had the same emotional jolt two years ago when Obama was elected.
I still care about the public discourse. I love that we live in a country where we can think and say what we want about our views in government, faith, and so on. But I don’t live and die by the political stuff like I used to.
I’ve also found that a person can be judged for their politics in the same harsh light someone can be judged for over their appearance. It shouldn’t be that way.
If your views are liberal, conservative, socialist or whatever, it doesn’t mean people have a right to judge you as good or bad. People will judge you anyway, but I need to be better than that.
I’ve been finding an intense beauty in the ability to be close to people you disagree with. Utah Sen, Orin Hatch and the late Sen. Edward Kennedy agreed on little politically, but had a deep friendship. I love my father-in-law even though I find some of his politics archaic and out of step with reality. Another close friend is a libertarian and we argue about a lot of things. But at the end of the day, we’re there for each other no matter what.
Yesterday, I think I got a little harsh with my other friend, like I would have done in the days of old. I got angry in my disagreement in a way that’s unhealthy and essentially told her she was full of shit on Facebook, for all to see. It goes to show you can always slide backwards, no matter how much you think you’ve advanced.
I don’t regret disagreeing with her position. I’d happily do it again.
But next time, I’ll do it differently. Because politics should never turn friends into enemies.