I have friends from all over the political spectrum. Recently a friend visited me from New York. She and I have been friends since we were both 13 years old. We used to go to each others’ houses, listen to music, have long sun drenched conversations while swimming in her pool. Our parents treated us both like daughters.
While she was visiting me, my bf took us out to lunch. The conversation at one point turned to politics. My friend voted for Trump. My bf is a liberal who voted for Biden. I am an independent who leans libertarian. I voted for Andrew Yang in the primary because I thought he had the most interesting ideas and he seems like a really sharp guy. I ended up voting third party in the general.
Needless to say, the political conversation at the lunch table could have turned hostile. I’ve seen this happen. In today’s political climate, people can get really heated and friendships can end. Families can be torn apart as children refuse to speak to parents or vice versa. It’s almost like a mini-Civil War. At least so far we don’t have casualties on the battlefield; it’s sad enough when there are empty seats at the Thanksgiving table.
So when the conversation turned to politics over lunch, a part of me braced for hostility. My anxiety turned to relief when… no fireworks ensued. We all managed to have a nice meal together.
My Trump supporting friend said a few things neither my bf or I agreed with but we were polite. Later, my bf and I both chipped in our two cents worth, yet everyone remained respectful.
As a libertarian, I hew to the old style liberal politics — the type that says “I may disagree with your viewpoint but I will vigorously defend your right to that viewpoint.” I believe in the First Amendment. That means I believe in your right to offend me, and I will back you up if someone tries to stifle you.
It’s not about liking you — it’s about respect. I might even hate someone, but I respect their rights.
Fortunately, my friend and bf seem to hold a similar perspective.
It helps that none of us considers politics to be the most important thing in the world. Once we stated our viewpoints and realized we had disagreements, we moved on to other topics — of which there are many. Art, literature, history, science, technology, food, gardens, travel, pets… even world affairs but in a more generic sense without the partisan stuff.
The reality is that both Trump and Biden supporters (and those of us who tend to support third parties) have a large middle ground where we can find agreement.
None of us are fanatics. When I mentioned Trump’s moral failings and idiotic tweets, my friend did not defend him. When I mentioned Biden’s lapses due to age and pointed out the Dems had better candidates, my bf understood my viewpoint.
Now, if someone is a fanatic — then we can’t discuss this stuff at all. But people who can look at politics objectively can see the pros and cons of each candidate and party. JMHO. I am fine with people disagreeing with me. It’s a free country. I am NOT fine with people shouting down other viewpoints.
In order to live in a free society, we must learn to tolerate opposing viewpoints. We don’t have to respect those viewpoints, but we should respect the rights of others to have thoughts we hate. This is the only way to exist in a truly free society. Because true freedom means we have the right to be wrong, to think and say stupid things and to even say things that others find hateful.
Don’t get me wrong. I would never be friends with a KKK member. BUT… he or she, in a free society, has the right to his or her opinion no matter how much I despise it. Living in a free society means we don’t silence people.
What is the alternative? A totalitarian reality where only “right” thoughts are allowed and citizens spy on and report each other, as they do in the Peoples’ Republic of China. A place where people are sent to prison for decades for a “wrong” social media post or for saying something perceived as critical of the government.
Whatever the flaws in our society, and there are plenty, I am glad to live in a country where I could criticize Trump without worrying about being sent to jail, and where I can criticize Biden without fearing retaliation. This is important on so many levels. I hope that the fanatics on either side never take over, and that we can continue to enjoy the freedom to voice whatever opinions we have without fear of punishment.
This post was previously published on Medium.
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