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Writer's Block: Agree to disagree

Have you ever stopped being friends with someone over differences in political views? Are there any issues that are so important to you that you cannot be friends with someone who holds a contrary opinion?

When I was in high school, I was distressed by the fact that my more political friends seemed to me to too easily dismiss and/or condemn those who held opposing political views. I thought it was possible to still be friends with someone whose politics were different and agree to disagree.

But over the past few years I've come to the opinion that political views are an expression of a person's entire values system -- and if our political views are contrary there's probably going to be a limit to the degree that we're going to be compatible in a lot of other areas as well.

The ability to be friends with someone of an opposing political view has a lot has to do with that person's attitude as well. Are they willing to respect my beliefs and positions, even if we disagree? If they don't, then I'm not going to hold up my side of the relationship unilterally. Assuming, of course, that we've found enough common ground in the first place to make a friendship even a possibility.

A few specific personal examples come to mind. . .

My long-time gaming group consisted of six to eight people who held very different political and religious beliefs, but we managed to stay friends because we kept both politics and religion out of our interactions. We understood that we had different beliefs and didn't make an issue of them. If someone was deeply engaged in their spiritual life, we were supportive without arguing theology.

The conservative guy who was one of Wolfling's unofficial godparents is a friend I'm losing over politics. Ten years ago, we could talk politics and religion, disagree, but still have a good conversation and be friends. But as time has passed he's become more conservative (religiously as well as politically) and correspondingly more judgmental and dismissive of liberals -- and I've become more political in a liberal direction. I've found we have less and less in common, and I enjoy his company far less, especially when I'm appalled -- and sometimes personally offended -- at his political statements. It's a tough situation, since he's someone who was a close friend for a very long time. I've tried to maintain a connection, but we're drifting apart and it's as much my responsibility as his as I'm less and less willing to engage with him.

Then there's one of my oldest LJ friends: someone whose religious and political beliefs are very different than mine but with whom I've been able to enjoy an ongoing interaction. "Agreeing to disagree" is one of the foundations of our friendship here. Somtimes I've disagreed strongly with opinions and perspectives she's expressed in her own journal, but I don't comment unless I believe I can do so politely and constructively. I respect her convictions, even though I don't share her beliefs. I suspect that she does the same here. We sometimes discuss differences, but I don't think we've ever really argued about anything. We are supportive of the other where we can be, and usually appreciate each other's taste in music and etc. We focus on the common ground rather than our political and religious differences.

I found it painful and troubling when two other LJ friends, women with whom I do feel a strong sense of shared values, chose not to support Obama during the election. To have them come to different opinions from mine on a political decision like this really threw me off. I struggled very hard to read and engage with their reflections on their decision-making process and understand their positions. I struggled about what to write in my own journal to reflect my own dismay without seeming to be critical or dismissive of their processes. I respected their thoughtfulness and their integrity, but was still disappointed in their choices -- and didn't know how to reconcile that in my own mind. Finally I decided that "agreeing to disagree" -- not formally, but as a private choice -- was the only way to go. I had no desire to allow the election to break our friendships. ETA: I should clarify that my dismay was also self-directed. I was startled at the intensity of my own feelings, since for most of my life I haven't considered myself particularly political. Feeling friction with friends about a political issue was (with the exception of the RL friend mentioned above) foreign to me.

It's 5:20am, and I'm about to be late for work. I'm hoping this has come out the way I intended. I'm still not entirely awake. I reserve the right to clarify or rephrase after having had more caffeine. . .


( 1 comment — Leave a comment )
Oct. 2nd, 2009 12:26 pm (UTC)
Excellent points, nicely made! It IS hard to find a good friend just not getting you, especially after a long time of "agreeing to disagree" -- and she's suddenly angry or bitter or both!

Just wanted to tell you that your 5-ayem drafting was totally coherent and quite persuasive! (Heck, what were you like once you HAD your quota of caffeine this morning?)

Hugs, Justine
( 1 comment — Leave a comment )


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