Throwing out friendship tropes and justifications for toxic behavior

One of the most common arguments that is encountered on social media is the idea that people only know people who share their political beliefs. While that is true to a certain extent, it doesn’t mean that individuals who are on one end or the other only know or only befriend those who are like-minded. It also doesn’t mean that a person cannot be informed about the issues that are important to those on other ends of the spectrum.

I’ve encountered a lot of conservatives who have told me that, because I’m liberal, I am uninformed about what they think or believe.

I’m a lifelong Alabamian. While I was born to liberal parents and am related to traditionally left/Democratic political families, I have been exposed to a lot more conservatives in life than liberals and moderates. Even a look at my religious background would indicate that I’m probably more familiar with conservative ideology than most would guess by my personal political views — I’m a Mormon convert, my mom grew up Methodist but converted to the LDS (Mormon) faith when I was 10, and my father grew up Southern Baptist.

I will never ever be a conservative, but I do understand their beliefs and why they hold them. It is also why I’m completely secure in my arguments against those beliefs. Despite what some may think, I’m not going in as an ignorant party. I’ve grown up with constant influence from those on the right, so it is ignorant and downright silly to assume that somehow I didn’t notice what their motives were or how their actions impact others. So since I know that one can grow up in a conservative faith, a conservative state, with conservative relatives, and with conservative friends and still maintain their left-wing stance, I know that it’s bullshit to pretend that people with differing views are incapable of friendship and of understanding the other’s opinions.

I know that while all Nazis are conservative, not all conservatives are Nazis; but I am a firm believer that friends don’t let friends hang out with Nazis, and that people who aren’t Nazis should not sit on the sidelines and keep their mouths shut when they see oppressive actions taking place. I’ve researched the causes and effects of bigotry throughout history. If I’m going to call someone’s actions bigoted or Nazi-like, then you best believe that I’m not doing it to score points. I’m calling them out because there is a potential or an actual harm in what they are doing. If that means that I end up with one less friend, then I’m okay with that. I don’t have to expose myself to toxic behavior in order to keep a friendship with someone who has lost my respect because of that behavior.

Choosing to make excuses for intolerance is harmful. Choosing to pal around with bigots is unwise. Choosing to ignore the obvious is just plain pitiful. Whether you’re the daughter of the President of the United States or some random YouTube personality, I believe that if you think that pandering to a group of bigots is the same thing as being open-minded, you’re only fooling yourself. Giving a platform to hate will always be inexcusable behavior because it will normalize that hate and empower those who hate to harm others.

Just as I am allowed to decide who I allow into my life, you are allowed to make decisions about who you allow in your life, but public figures should not be feigning shock or ignorance at the disgust that occurs when they pal around with Nazis. Pretending that someone else’s past doesn’t exist or that their current actions don’t count is willful ignorance and it’s a pathetic behavior for any person to display. I think it’s even worse when you’re trying to force marginalized people to accept predatory individuals into their inner circles. It is downright sickening. Trying to pass off acceptance of abusers as progress is just absolutely grotesque; it is always regressive to embrace hatred and intolerance. It will always be toxic and it should always be something that people speak out against.

Those who critique who you allow in your life aren’t necessarily expecting you to change your mind about toxic choices, but they are giving you an opportunity to dialogue with them to find out how your normalization of hate could be harmful to them and to others. If you want friends across the political spectrum, that’s great. If you refuse to even acknowledge if those friends are doing something wrong, then that isn’t great. If you are willing to open your mind to those who promote hate at the expense of the marginalized, why not open it to those who are marginalized? Why go on the defensive? Why pretend like courting controversy is only something that impacts your own life? If you cannot be honest with yourself on your role in normalizing intolerance, then how can you expect others to respect you? Do you want to be remembered for being just another exploitative individual? Do you want people to focus on your love of toxic behavior/rhetoric? Or do you want to be recognized for doing good?

History is full of people who will throw the marginalized under the bus for attention, popularity, money, land/property, etc. Being just like them isn’t groundbreaking. It’s more of the same old shit.

I set up some polls on Twitter that are sort of related to this post. They’re open to vote in for about 7 days.

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