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.
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.
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.