When to End a Friendship Over Politics

Image by Daniel Lee

Image by Daniel Lee

I started getting interested in politics and economics about eight years ago, and I like to say it’s been both a blessing and a curse. It’s obviously extremely important to be informed of what’s going on, especially when you realize that people way more ignorant than yourself are running things and get to make decisions that affect your life. But being informed sometimes leads to frustration when you are surrounded by so many who are not informed at all, but still choose to participate in the political process.

I read this great article by Jack Hunter on friendship and politics. It makes the case for never letting politics affect your friendships, and for the most part, I agree. But I can’t deny the fact that the way I see certain people has definitely changed based on their political views.

I started thinking about how wrong I was for doing this, and how I could maybe learn to separate the political views from the person. It’s certainly not right, I thought, to lose respect for someone because they think differently than I do. After all, the way we see things is affected by our experiences, and we are all looking at the same issues from a unique standpoint that others may not understand.

But as I thought more about this, I came up with plenty of people around me who do think differently than I do, and I don’t think any less of them because of it. The more I analyzed this, the more I came to understand the difference between the people whom I have lost respect for, and those whom I have not, despite our differences.

What I came to realize is that in the cases where my opinion of the person was negatively affected, it was because it became impossible to separate the person from their political views, because those political views–more specifically, their reasons for holding those views–allowed me to see more of who the person really was, and I didn’t like what I saw.

Let me explain. As someone who believes government should keep their “helping” to a minimum–since laws often end up hurting the very people they are supposed to help–I often have to defend myself against those who claim that I don’t care enough about those less fortunate.

Normally, it doesn’t bother me as much to be accused of not being compassionate enough–even though it is completely untrue, as I’m actually overly mindful of other people’s feelings.

It’s when someone uses compassion to try to win an argument, when I know them to actually not care about anyone but themselves, that it really starts to bother me.

It’s when those who have shown themselves to be prejudiced against others, try to lecture me on political correctness, that it really starts to bother me.

It’s when those who don’t even care enough to properly tip a good waiter or waitress for a job well done, act as if their support for higher taxes makes them more generous than me, that it really starts to bother me. You see, to get credit for being generous and caring, you have to give something of yourself. Forcing others to do the giving doesn’t quite cut it.

This reminds me of the story of a woman who worked at a school cafeteria, and was giving away free lunches to those whose parents were too irresponsible to make sure their kids had their lunch money. The school had a policy of not enabling the irresponsible parents by sending the wrong message. But this lady, being the “generous” person that I’m sure she thought she was, decided she would give away free meals anyway. But she wasn’t paying for the meals herself, you see. That would require real generosity, which I’m sure she lacked.

It’s the hypocrisy that the political views bring to light, that end up altering the way I see someone, because it brings me closer to understanding who they really are. I came up with six different reasons why I think a person can have a specific political opinion, so that I can separate people into categories. In most cases it is true, that someone’s views should not affect how we see the person, but there are cases in which they absolutely should.

  1. True Analysis: A small number of people actually reach political conclusions based on true analysis of the issues and the facts. And I can respect those who have done so, even if they end up reaching a different conclusion than mine.
  2. Ignorance: Some support certain policies simply because they lack knowledge about the issues.
  3. Lack of Thought Independence: Some, even if they know in their hearts that something is wrong, are too afraid to think differently than the rest. They are followers, and have a need to be part of a group. They rarely even bother to think about the issues, since it’s safer to just go with the “consensus.”
  4. Emotional Thinking: Some people are more emotional than they are logical, so they tend to support policies that on the surface appear to be the most compassionate. They let their emotions get in the way of trying to come up with real solutions to problems.
  5. Hatred: Some people like to use the political process to punish those whom they don’t like. Of course, they would never admit it. They always have a fake “compassionate” reason for supporting certain things. An example of this are those who support raising taxes on the rich not because they care about the poor, but because they simply hate those who are successful.
  6. Facade: In this category belong those who almost know, deep down, that they’re not good people, and they have a hidden sense of guilt because of it. Because of this guilt, these people spend their lives trying to prove something to themselves and to others by supporting policies that they think make them look like decent human beings. These people tend to try a little too hard, like the ones always crying ‘racist’ whenever someone disagrees with them, but then get caught off guard and expose themselves by making comments that are in fact, racist, unlike everything else that they try to put that label on.

We are all different and we can’t expect everyone to think like we do, so I have no problem with those who fall into categories #1 through #4, above. It’s #5 and #6 that I think do, and should, affect how I see them as individuals, and I have no desire to remain associated with those that I identify as belonging to these categories.

I should re-iterate that a person’s political views are not the problem. It is their reasons for holding those views that are the problem, and one can only know what those reasons are by already knowing a little bit about the person.

Jack Hunter says in his article that

The primary reason any of us should have a political opinion about anything, ostensibly, is that we believe our ideas would make life better for everyone, not only ourselves but also those we care about.

My point is that there are some who are not interested in making life better for anyone. Those who use politics only to try to punish people they dislike, and those who use politics to hide their true self, are not good people. We should stop pretending that everyone is.

But I agree with Jack because I don’t believe his article is referring to the people I am referring to. Jack is writing about real friends; people who you already have a good sense of who they really are. It is helpful though, to understand how to identify those among us who are not worthy of our friendship. There are good people we disagree with, and there are those who aren’t good people, and that’s why we can never agree.

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  • I_Am_Me

    Your #5 is well known. It’s typically rooted in envy. Your #7 is a bit less well known. It is the difference between these two statements of self:

    I am good.
    I feel good.

    The difference between the two is profound. A person of good character can be good. A person of dubious character will try to find redemption and an emotional salve by promoting things that make him or her feel good. It’s narcissistic.

  • M Klein

    Eh,I can agree with some of the stuff and other just never know enough about a person to make a full disclosure of what they really feel inside. So many people you think you know are so easily swayed or just plain lie it’s tough to tell. For instance you can’t make the assumption with the lunch lady that her motives weren’t for the good,simply because she didn’t pay for the food. I get that your actions dictate more then words ever will,but I think that’s generalizing a person who may really have been trying to do something nice for kids. I get the fact it’s a “Robin Hood” mentality from the outside,but I would say a person who would take lunches for themselves and making sure their good,forget the kids is a better analogy of self righteousness. I just think people in general can be put into general categories,but my whole point is that’s done way to often with many other more important things,more impactful things that cause more grief in assuming then simply just take things for what they are. Digging for answers on EVERYTHING just isn’t the best idea. Some things don’t need to be categorized or picked apart and demand explanation for again to be put into a category. Political correctness is a problem and that instead of focusing on solutions you come up with more then may be needed or called for. I think a lot of people should honestly MYOB. As long as something isn’t directly effecting you in a negative light to require a comment,sometimes it’s just not needed. This speaks for the “Social Media” 💥..Everybody has a voice now,when you can accept that and realize not every voice is gonna be something you agree with or wanna hear,the easier it will become to not take things so personal. A lot of life is for self,you have to have some form of greed I simply call it ambition,what some think is arragonce I say confidence. There is nothing wrong with looking out for self,as long as it doesn’t negatively effect others. Basically stepping on somebody’s back when there is a space in the pond,to not get wet. I don’t know I could go on and on,kinda rambled a bit but wanted to address mostly taking everything at face value isn’t a bad thing. Some stuff just doesn’t need to be placed into full view for everybody to understand.