I have a friend, or perhaps I should more properly say, I did have a friend, whose political views were diametrically opposed to my own . I enjoyed her company and liked her very much… hence we were friends – d’oh! Recently I decided I had to sever our relationship. It was not an easy thing to do, but it was time to draw a line in the sand. There are very few areas of disagreement that would drive me to take such a drastic step, but they are vitally important to me. They are fundamental beliefs to me, that make up a part of who I am.
She is a very outspoken right-wing person and in hindsight I would have to say she is a bigoted racist. She doesn’t sound too nice, too bright or too much fun does she? Truth is, she was terrific company and lots of fun. Anyway, I digress; the breaking point came when I asked her if she personally agreed with the calls for Wikileaks’ Julian Assange’s death, as expressed on the website www.peopleokwithmurderingassange.com. She replied that she agreed with capital punishment and suspected I did not (she was right) and that she thought Assange was the same as “terrorist scum who should be shot on sight”. This was not just an opinion that she personally held, she had been very vocal about it. I told her I thought that her call for a man’s death was disgusting, and that it made her no better than a terrorist. It is one thing to call for a man’s trial and quite another to call for his death. I told her that we could no longer be friends. If she feels like me she will be saddened by the loss of our friendship; but maybe she won’t care at all. What I know is that it is wrong to even listen to talk that is vitriolic and hate-ridden or to lend it any credence whatever.
Political argument is fine, differences of opinion are normal and healthy in relationships of all types, but people who are racist or espouse values or actions based on hate don’t belong in my life, nor do people who are intolerant or divisive. In my youth I was guilty of putting up with that kind of behavior, requesting of certain friends that they not talk about those subjects, effectively sweeping our differences under the carpet; in doing so becoming quietly complicit.
No more. Those days are gone. I will still have friends with whom I disagree politically, but I’ve finally drawn the line regarding which issues and attitudes I will accept as disparities and what constitutes much greater and insurmountable differences. Really this is about betrayal and compromise; how much can one compromise? and how much is one prepared to betray one’s values; oneself, in the name of friendship?