No, We Can’t Remain Friends
If this was the early 1900’s and you believed that all people deserved to be treated fairly, it is highly unlikely you would remain friends with someone who posted a sign on their business saying “No Mexicans Allowed.” You may even end the friendship in a fashion that is less than polite because you find their behavior so appalling, and not many like-minded people would have blamed you for it.
So why does it seem like those rules no longer apply in today’s world, especially when it comes to the world of social media? In the past few years, I feel people have begun to warp the idea of accepting different opinions.
If you and another person don’t like the same color or the same television show then it’s no big deal. If you are fiscally conservative and your friend believes in a tax raise to increase college affordability, then it is likely the two of you will bump heads, but there is no reason a political difference like that should end a relationship.
I had a friend I’d known for a while, and I considered him to be a pretty neat person. He was friendly enough, but to be honest, we hadn’t had too many “deep” conversations. One day we got into a simple discussion about politics and world affairs, which quickly turned into a discussion of beliefs and values. Through this discussion, the young man shared his disdain and disapproval for homosexuality and those that “choose to be so.” I found his attitude to be cruel and ignorant. I attempted to explain my view of things, and he explained his.
At the end of the day, I understood we were both entitled to our opinions. That being said, I also decided that I did not want to further pursue the friendship. He tried to convince me that we could go along as we had been and just agree to disagree, stating that opinions don’t need to break up relationships. I stated plainly that I didn’t find this to be a small issue and I had no intentions on continuing a relationship with someone who harbored beliefs that I felt were not only ignorant but also dangerous.
People often try to bend and/or stifle their beliefs in the hopes of not putting off their peers. People always remind you that they have the freedom of speech whenever you call them out on saying anything hateful. Freedom of speech is important, but many people also seem to have a hard time accepting what comes with having the freedom to speak your mind. Being able to stand up and say how you feel may cost you a couple of friendships, and that is okay.
To put it plainly, when someone expresses a belief that is racist, homophobic, sexist, or otherwise discriminatory, it becomes unlikely that we will be able to develop a deep friendship. Not only that, but it is my right to tell them why I feel they are wrong the same way it is their right to disagree with me.
Too many people pretend not the see or understand the issues in our society. People who saw what happened in Charlottesville and still claim not to notice the racism and hatred in this country are not being good friends to the people who can not only see but feel the hate. When a heavily armed group of people march down our streets wielding Nazi flags and shouting hateful words, locating the problem shouldn’t be hard. A participant from that same group ran his car through a group of anti-racist protesters and murdered 32-year-old Heather Heyer while injuring several others. A peaceful protester was murdered by a white supremacist. So If someone says white supremacists are to blame for the horrendous events in Charlottesville and someone else shrugs their shoulders and says that both sides should take the blame, that is a disagreement too important to ignore. There are some instances when a side must be chosen. Ms. Heyer chose her side, and the man who killed her chose his.
As Malcolm X once said, “A man who stands for nothing will fall for anything.” I like to hear different points of view and look at all sides of an issue, but there are certain issues I feel rather strongly about and I can not compromise on. It is important to find a happy medium between locking yourself in an echo chamber and refusing to hear people out or forming no solid beliefs at all.
Growing up means understanding that at some point you are going to ruffle some feathers, but as long as you believe in what you’re doing then go for it. Sometimes our friends and associates turn out to have very different values, and we have to know when to cut ties. Speaking up for yourself and your beliefs and telling people how you feel does not make you a “weak snowflake.” We have the freedom to express ourselves as well as the freedom to say “buzz off.” May we use both wisely.