Friendship and Politics Shouldn’t Mix

“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend,” said Thomas Jefferson.

This quote by Thomas Jefferson is the mindset you need going forward in life. Just because a person disagrees with you politically doesn’t make them a bad person. I see too much of this today, friendships ending because two people disagree on politics.

Those of us on the Knight Life staff get into plenty of political arguments, but I never let it bleed over into how I view that person. People can have a different view than you, that doesn’t mean they are a bad person. I may be as liberal as a vegan Huffington Post writer who lives in San Francisco, but I have conservative friends. I love conservatives! There are plenty of reasons a friendship should end, but politics should not be one of them.

Now, there are some political views that even the power of friendship can’t surmount. Obviously if he (or she) is, say, a nazi, I wouldn’t be able to stay friends with them. Racism, sexism or a general desire to kill large numbers of the population is where I draw the line for friendship. We’re talking disagreements about the tax code, not disagreements over what race of people should inhabit the United States. That is more than someone disagreeing with you politically–that person is evil.

In an article from Forbes titled When Your Friends Don’t Share Your Politics, the author, Stephen Antczak, discusses a speech Bernie Sanders gave to Liberty University. Liberty University was founded by the televangelist Jerry Falwell, so it is very conservative. Sanders starts the speech by acknowledging that everyone in the crowd probably has “very, very different” political views from him. This simple act of acknowledgment puts you at ease. This introduction led to the people in the crowd being more accepting of his opinion, despite their disagreement.

Use Bernie as an example for how to live your life. People who have differing opinions are not worse than you (unless their opinions fall into the categories previously mentioned). Think about it, if you see someone else as being wrong, they must think you’re wrong as well. You can’t both be right. So who is, you might ask. Neither. Both people in this scenario are wrong. I mean, let’s be honest, everybody on Earth is probably wrong. Don’t let yourself get caught up in an argument. Enjoy the time with that person.

This past election was especially bitter and I get that someone could get angry about it. But don’t, it’s not more important than your friends. Just because you disagree with the person in the White House (or disagree with those who disagree with the president) should not affect your personal life.

But how do you let it go? Politics is very important in certain discussions, just not in everyday life, and the current administration is bent on changing America (be it for better or for worse) in a way that will affect everyone’s lives. Sure there may be a ton of animosity between parties in the Senate, but you never hear about anger in the state senate. These politicians who hold such high offices are often determined and somewhat crazy, willing to die for their beliefs. Locally elected officials are more real, open to friendship.

The best example of a friendship across the aisle was the strong friendship between Supreme Court justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the late Antonio Scalia. Ginsburg, one of the most liberal justices ever on the Supreme Court, and Scalia, one of the most staunch conservatives, may seem like an odd pair. Ginsburg made her career as a lawyer arguing for women’s rights. Scalia was a strict constitutionalist till the end, going so far as to oppose the expansions of any civil rights as he saw no precedent in the constitution.

Their friendship was described in a Washington Post article from February 2016 titled What made the friendship between Scalia and Ginsburg work, written by Irin Carmon. The article was written shortly after Scalia’s death. Carmon describes how Scalia and Ginsburg spent much time together outside of the Supreme Court including shopping and riding an elephant during a trip to India.

When asked how he could be friends with someone so diametrically opposed to his political views Scalia once said, “If you can’t disagree ardently with your colleagues about some issues of law and yet personally still be friends, get another job.”

That is what I’m talking about. This man has it down. All it takes is the ability to forget about politics when it isn’t important.

What matters more is if someone is a good person. Ginsburg thought Scalia was charming, and so she was able to put aside the fact that he fundamentally disagreed with everything she spent her life fighting for. If they can be friends, then you can have a conversation with a Trump supporter.

“I like this article. I think it’s my favorite one [article] all year.”  said Bill Bowser, Knight Life’s token conservative.

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