This boomer says, Let’s get along, Right or Left

Maybe it’s not everyone, but here at BoomerCafé we think we’re seeing not just more divisiveness than ever before, but more friendships torn apart because of it. Writing from his home in Buck’s County, Pennsylvania, Larry Lefkowitz bemoans what’s happening and preaches, Let’s just try to get along, whether you’re Right, or Left.

Living in this era of global virus and political divisiveness reminds me of how I feel when wearing a lead apron for dental x-rays. It is a pervasive weight that is uncomfortable, limiting, and suffocating. It might relieve us from dangerous exposure, but in a bigger sense, it gives us no relief.

Relief comes from the familiar things we have consciously or subconsciously turned to when feeling oppressed. Maybe it is comfort food, maybe a favorite movie, but with tools like those, we have somewhere to go when the world starts to overwhelm us.

I have noticed communication with old friends and relatives increases as our isolation drags on with no definitive end. The rapid advancement of communications technology has effectively given us the video phone we baby boomers might remember as a future prognostication in our youth. This is no small advancement, although some are loath to use it due to vanity or uncontrollable body language. However, I have found that texting and emailing are more prevalent in my daily life anyway, and reconnecting or increasing my contact with friends has been a gift in quarantine.

The joy of communicating came crashing down on me recently though when I emailed with a friend of 60 years. We regularly correspond and talk about everything and anything, sharing each other’s interests, joys, and sorrows. But we had never spoken politics until the other day.

My friend is retired. He worked for a blue chip corporation all of his adult life, married his high school sweetheart, and raised a beautiful family, worthy of the Cleavers. But a spark in the conversation made my even, level-headed, pragmatic friend suddenly explode about how leftist ideology has ruined every country it has invaded and will destroy America if it regains power. He argued that the current president is irrelevant; that his lying, mocking, name-calling, and denigration of all who oppose his views, while odd, means nothing. All that matters is rightist ideology which stands for freedom, fairness, and no free rides.

Shocked, I stated that in all my life, even when a candidate I did not favor won an election, I accepted that and moved on because there was always the base of the Constitution and that our country stood on fairness and freedom. But the current messenger was abhorrent to me because of the angry, inaccurate, impulsive delivery. Ultimately, we agreed to disagree.

Actors James Stewart and Henry Fonda early in their careers.

I do not know where our friendship will go from here. Long ago, Henry Fonda and Jimmy Stuart, best friends for more than 50 years, had a falling out over political ideology. Henry was a staunch Democrat and Jimmy an equally staunch Republican. But they would not surrender their friendship to political disagreement. They agreed to never discuss politics again and they didn’t, producing one of the longest and strongest friendships we know.

Stewart and Fonda in their later years.

I have other friends with whom I disagree politically, but I do not think of them as anything but friends I love. I refuse to let political divisiveness destroy friendships I have cultivated over many years. I wish for others to defend their friendships as well, because maybe if we do, we become stronger as a society.

7 Comments

  1. As someone who knew Larry in person 50 years ago and reconnected through email within the past ten years, I can testify that while we frequently agree, we don’t always, and often there are areas of profound disagreement, but we accept each other. In all relationships, acceptance is sometimes mixed with pain as you realize that that someone you care about harbors ideas you find repellant. They believe something you cannot and would not. But our human attraction is stronger than our minds’ limitations. This is true of my relationship with Larry. We’re pretty dissimilar and pretty similar at the same time.

      1. Ha! I WANT it untied. It’s an expression of Independent will that refuses to follow the crowd’s WAAAAA! … . Sorry. I seem to have tripped on something.

    1. Not just “worth it”, but mandatory, I believe, if we are to survive as a nation. We cannot survive the current partisan bickering.

  2. I try to not bring up politics with casual friends and acquaintances, as sometimes it’s better to not know what their thoughts are. Sometimes we have to agree to disagree. Sometimes I discover these things obliquely, as when they proffer their opinions to someone else in my presence, for example. I might not go toe-to-toe with them if they parrot outright lies from their beloved idols/Faux Noise, but finding out that someone thinks tearing families apart and putting children in cages is acceptable immigration policy, for example, forever changes my perception of them. We may not argue, we may never discuss it, but our friendship will very likely never be the same.

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