Hate is a killer, and love revitalizes us.
Around the beginning of every year there are remembrances of the past and discussions about the future. “To absent friends” is a toast that is heard around the dinner tables of older and more experienced people as they look back upon the enormity of their lives. I suggest it be considered now, as election day approaches, as well.
Political activity is a social action. The basic mechanism behind it is to gather many people together under a common banner and promote a concept. Because of this, friendships and politics often go hand in glove. Spending time with friends often leads to political discussions, overt or subtle, which in turn leads to an alignment of viewpoints; spending time with people whose fundamental values are in alignment often leads to friendships.
There are two ways in which friendships go absent. The first, in which a person merely disappears from your life, is difficult. It can be abrupt, and online, where there seem to be infinite ways of staying in contact but in reality thee is only one – a computer – it often is. I regularly wonder, for example, what happened to Hannah, who spoke online under the moniker of H50. From what little I knew of her (a strange thing to say about one whom I would consider a friend, albeit not a close, personal one) I have every reason to worry. It might be something as simple as her frustration affecting her health and merely walking away from the conflict, though. I choose to hope that’s why she’s not around anymore. She is not unique in this regard. One of the negatives of possessing a decent memory is that I remember many names who’ve simply drifted away from me, both online and “in real life”. I earnestly wish the best for them, even as I suspect it isn’t always the case.
The second is where a friendship turns cold. In politics, this typically happens because of a disagreement, or many disagreements. In these instances there are almost always feelings of betrayal; there was a trust forged by shared experiences and values, and those values weren’t actually shared. In lesser cases it leads to distancing; in extreme cases it can lead to active dislike or even hate.
Hate is a killer, remember?
There have been people that mattered to me who have decided to stand against me. Politically, socially, it is amazingly easy – and sadly effective – to attack them and rally others with me to hate them. How much they mattered varies greatly. For most, they were merely people whose occasional favorable comment or joint conversation was pleasant; for others they were people I felt inspired to rally behind; for a few they were people with whom I shared deep ties. The degree of pain I feel from their rejection of me is proportional to how much they mattered. But I believe that is the key, I once valued my association with them.
They were my friends, even if in some cases (like with political leaders) that friendship was one-sided, inadvisable, and eventually betrayed. At one point in my life, every one of those people brought me joy and even inspiration. By appreciating that fact, while not forgetting about the arguments or even outright betrayals, I can avoid hate. Some of these people might have significant hurdles in ever regaining my trust (if, in fact, they’d ever care to do so) but I don’t choose to hate them.
We’re going to the polls – or have already early voted, or are intentionally not going to the polls – on Tuesday. Until then, and on the days immediately following, there will be hate and division spewed forth from political ads and political speech as people try, in the absence of complex discussion about policy, laws and foundational principles, to energize some to vote and to shame others into joining.
It will be easy to fall into hate, particularly against those who once claimed to be stalwart advocates for something you believed in – like a person who expertly defended the 14th Amendment but has reversed himself for political expediency, or those who used to be incensed about rampant spending but who now ignore it, or who decided that bigotry was more important to them than consistency. I urge you not to succumb to that emotion. It is a poison that will cloud your thinking before you make a decision on how to represent your interests.
Instead I offer an alternative, something I try to do. These people once held value, and there was a reason for that. Raise a little glass, remember some of the good times you had with or while supporting a particular person, and just think to yourself, “absent friends”. Maybe, with luck, some of them will return.