Opinion: Politics Should Divide Friends And Families

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On the Fourth of July, author Stephen King tweeted a simple message. The gist of it was to find that politically-opposite friend of yours that you haven’t spoken to since the election and give ’em a hug. He ended the tweet with “Just for today, let’s all be Americans.”

It’s a fine message, sure, but the backlash proves that it’s not as easy as just hugging an old friend and letting differences in politics being what they are. Because at the end of the day, who you voted for and who you align yourself with is a reflection of your morals. And why shouldn’t finding out the moral differences you have with someone else divide you from them?

Division is sorta healthy

Since the November 2016 Presidential election, this country has been more divided than ever before. It’s a fact, and it’s something I’ve not only watched from behind a keyboard but in my real life. At work, at home, and within my friend group, there are clear lines in the sand being drawn. And while many would have you believe that this is some kind of travesty, I honestly believe that this is how it should be. Sure, the strife and fights surrounding politics these days aren’t exactly healthy. But they’re leading to important conversations and that’s imperative to a democracy.

But that’s not the only reason politics should divide us. Sure, debates are good. Healthy, even! How can you run a country that’s good for everyone without everyone’s input? But what I’ve learned in the last couple years is that everyone’s input isn’t always beneficial. Especially not when it’s full of rhetoric that’s harmful to others. Because here’s the bold truth: your politics are a reflection of your ethical values. Who you voted for in the last presidential election is a reflection of your beliefs. And if you voted for Donald Trump, even if you did it for “economic reasons,” means that you value the number in your bank account over the actual lives of human beings suffering under this administration – people of color, refugees, the LGBTQ+ community, women, and more. These political divisions between us have been excellent for weeding out the toxic, problematic people in my life.

Your politics are what you believe in

Plain and simple, who you endorse for public office and what you fight for is what you believe in. If you tell me that you voted for Trump, I’m going to already have preconceived notions about your beliefs because you aligned yourself with his convictions. And I don’t feel bad about that! Because the long and short of it is when you endorse someone who has virulent discourse built into the fiber of their campaign, then I’m going to assume you agree with that. And who wants to be around someone with such homophobic, sexist, Islamaphobic, child-separating ideals?! Not me!

You may be thinking to yourself, “Well I voted for him but I don’t agree with everything he stands for!” That ain’t gonna fly, sweetheart. Sure you can be all for lowering taxes (because, duh, we all are) but the minute you support someone because of one or two little things you enable everything they believe in. Maybe you cast a vote for lower taxes, but that vote also went towards constant cries of building a wall and travel bans. Your political alignment tells me who you really are. And if you think lower taxes matters more than living, breathing human beings being hurt by policies right now then I don’t care if you’re my closet friend — I am all set without you!

What’s just “politics” to you can be life-altering for someone else

This is the ultimate showing of privilege to me. When you can brush something off so simple by saying “it’s just politics!” then you clearly don’t understand, or get affected by, the consequences of “just politics.” For you, it’s just something meaningless off in Washington. And I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had family members and friends bemoan protestors because they’re just “blocking roads” and “destroying property” while ignoring how a Superbowl win sends white bros into a tizzy. If you can’t see the need for protest or at least respect that it’s being done, then congratulations! You’re in the ultimate position where harmful politics don’t affect your life, therefore, you don’t give AF!

And to be honest, that has stopped being acceptable. As a woman with mental illness in this country, I’m not going to sit by while the President tries to strip my healthcare and hurt myself and others worse off than me. Just because you have fancy-schmancy health care that you can afford no matter what doesn’t mean you should stop caring about the other people in this world who can’t afford their hospital bill. What the division of politics in the last few years has taught me is that very few people care about anyone but themselves and their own loved ones. And at this time in history that is no longer going to cut it if you’re going to be in my life.

Relationships in your life can fade, but you have to live with yourself

Family and friends are important, don’t get me wrong. But at the end of the day, you have to live with yourself. And being the kind of person I can live with being is very important to me. My morals and compassion for others is part of who I am. So when you say “politics isn’t worth losing a friendship over!” that means you clearly don’t have the same priorities as I do. Because saying that is like saying gay marriage, abortion rights, and equal pay are irrelevant issues to you.

The relationships in my life mean the world to me, but I can’t sit by while people in my life totally ignore the plights of others. So if you’re going to sit here and tell me we need to keep separating migrant children from their parents, I’m probably going to walk away, just sayin’. Civility is important, but that doesn’t mean standing by and blindly accepting everything your loved ones do and say. Sometimes the most civil thing you can do is walk away and hope that your absence due to how passionately you feel about something will make another person reconsider their own ethics.

Discourse is still important

Listen, I’m not saying immediately cut out anyone in your life who you disagree with. That would be, well, lonely. Discourse is still important in this country. Sharing your stories and experiences, which inform your political beliefs, make this a well-rounded country. A debate is healthy. Trying to help people see your POV is healthy. It’s what this country was built on! (Ya know, along with immigrants, but I digress.)

But in this era, there are some lines that have been crossed that cannot be uncrossed. Your public endorsement of a hateful man, complete with a “MAGA” hat, is grounds for dismissal in my life. Sure, I’ll hear you out to an extent. I’m never closed off to learning new things. But there are few things, in my eyes, that can make your support for someone so repulsive acceptable. Because I have seen the consequences of that man’s actions first hand and any privilege I may have won’t stop me from caring.