Is This Election Worth Losing Friends Over?

I used to like Donald Trump. I would watch interviews of him years ago, in which the interviewer would ask, “What would you do if you were President in (such-and-such) situation?”, and his answers (not to mention his demeanor) were always calm, thoughtful, rational — presidential. I secretly hoped he would run for President some day, so you can imagine my elation when I heard he was throwing his hat into the ring. That elation quickly turned to dismay when, in his very first speech, he denounced most Mexicans as “bringing drugs…bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.” (emphasis added). The craziness that has seemed to characterize his campaign and this particular election season in general was just getting started, and it started right at the top and has trickled down to his staunchest supporters.

I used to like Hillary Clinton. I admired her intelligence, and secretly hoped she would run for President some day too. Gender aside, you cannot argue her political resume, including the up-close-and-personal exposure she had to the office while she was First Lady. I highly doubt that she was the type of First Lady who was all about picking a china pattern, planning dinner parties and decorating the White House Christmas tree; no, I imagine she had plenty of input during Bill’s presidency. And having a former President back in the White House, albeit in a co-starring role, certainly boosts her credentials. But elation turned to dismay once again, with Benghazi and email accounts and classified/unclassified information.

The fact that these two would meet in the general election is the definition of the perfect storm. They have caused much polarization among voters, and you don’t even have to follow politics closely to know this. I, for instance, don’t follow politics, but apparently I have many Facebook friends who do. And they are not shy about vehemently voicing not only support for their particular candidate, but also not shy of assuming the mantle of press secretary by spreading denigrating tidbits about the opposing candidate, complete with belittling commentary. I, on the other hand, have decided to steer clear of posting anything political on my Facebook page, and I will not “Like” or comment on any of my friend’s political posts. Not that I’m not tempted to. I’m just aware of the firestorm it could start. And many of them have admitted to having had to “clean up” their “Friends” list during this election season because they cannot abide by their friends political leanings which all of a sudden differ from their own.

When they were all united for or against Obama, it was “friends till the end”; but now it’s more like, “How could you?”.

My Facebook friends are a sound, rational bunch, and I would not characterize any one of them as a “loose cannon”. But this election has caused many of them to lose their humanity, compassion, and rationale. For instance, one of my female friends had this to say about Hillary: “…flawed, unworthy, not to be trusted, not a victory for women but a disappointment.”. If we think about that rationally for a moment, we realize the same could be said of Trump. Or of any one of us. Are we not all flawed? Over the course of our lifetime, have there been times when we’ve been untrustworthy, or a disappointment to someone?

I don’t understand the insistence on perfection in our political candidates.

All politicians are guilty of indiscretions. Are some more corrupt than others? Absolutely. But these are people — not angelic beings come straight from heaven. They’ve made mistakes. I have to laugh at all the righteous indignation that gets expressed, as if we all have never lied or cheated or stolen to get what we want. But I’m not going there.

I’m sure you’ve heard the old adage that there are two things you should never talk about if you want to remain on speaking terms with anybody: religion and politics.

I have a special group of friends within my Facebook friends, a group consisting of myself and four other women. We can talk (and have talked) about religion all day long, because we are all Christian and agree on everything as far as that’s concerned. We are all very supportive of each other, and I love them dearly. But politics is something we will never be able to talk about. And let me tell you why.

Earlier this year, one of the women in our group, who I’ll call Ms. C., took the rash action of unfriending the four of us because she felt another member of the group, Ms. V. (who is Canadian and lives in Canada), was mocking both our election process and our candidates. Here was Ms. C.’s explanation: “…that was not what I desired to be exposed to when I befriended this Christian group…I am very sensitive, and all the political negativity, in the media and now on Facebook, has brought me down spiritually. I just could not allow it to continue.” Perfectly good, sound reasoning. Except for one thing. There is another member of our group, Ms. M., who is an unabashed Trump supporter as well as a Hillary-basher. Christianity has gone right out the window when it comes to Ms. M. and this election. But that’s not the shocking part. The shocker is that the too-sensitive-for-the-negativity-of-this-election Ms. C. “likes” and comments positively on Ms. M.’s negative political posts. Where is the rationale? But I’m not going there.

It’s not just on Facebook that I have to dodge these bullets. At home, my partner identifies more with the Democratic Party, while I with the Republican. He seizes every opportunity available to try to convince me that the Republican Party is only for the wealthy, and since I am not wealthy, I should not consider myself one of them (nonetheless, it’s the conservative ideals of the Party that I gravitate towards, and I am, in fact, a registered Republican). But I’m not going there either.

In the end, if I vote, I will vote for whoever I believe will do the best job for our country — flaws and party lines aside — and NO ONE, not my Facebook friends, not my partner, not anyone reading this, will ever know.

Presidents come, and presidents go. Good friends are hard to find. The Bible teaches us to hold our tongues and not cause any unnecessary strife, and that’s just what I’m going to do. I’m going to hold my tongue and allow my friends to exercise their right to freedom of speech because, the way I see it, to do anything else would be unnecessary. No matter which candidate wins, we know this: they will do things they said they’d never do, they will renege on promises they made, and they will be stymied by Congress most of the way. Ultimately, will it have been worth it to lose your friends for someone you didn’t really know? You will have won the battle but lost the war.

I’m happy to say when all the mud-slinging between the candidates is over, all of my relationships will be intact. Will yours?

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