The politics of friendship

elephant-donkey-politicsThe election is still more than six weeks away and I’m starting to get a callus on my tongue from biting it.

It’s not that I don’t like to talk about politics. I love to talk about politics. Just ask my husband, or my family, or any of my friends who happen to share my opinions. We talk about politics all the time and we love it. I can’t tell you how many times we’ve solved all the problems of the world over dinner and a few bottles of wine. It’s not that we don’t argue. We certainly don’t agree on everything, but we do share some very core ideas about the way the world should be run.

I love to talk about politics.

I just don’t want to talk about politics with certain people that I know because I like those people, and I want to continue liking them and I know that I won’t like what they have to say about the upcoming election and then I’ll have to either bite my tongue until it bleeds or try to have a rational conversation with someone who is clearly out of their mind if they really think what I think they think about the upcoming election.

But I’m scared to ask them because, honestly, if they feel the way I think they do I don’t want to know.

So I’m deluged with emails and links to blogs and funny YouTube videos from friends who know I think the way they think and I forward them on to friends who I think think the way we think, but there are a lot of people in my address book who don’t. With them, I try to pretend that there isn’t an election going on because I want to continue being friends with them and I know if we talk about it, it will be hard for me.

See, I have to deal with them daily at work, on soccer teams, PTAs and nonprofit committees, and I want to deal with them in a pleasant, respectful manner and stay friendly. They are my friends, after all. But quite frankly, I’m scared that if we start to talk about certain things I’ll lose all respect for their intelligence.

Then my blood pressure will go up whenever I see them, or perhaps even think about them. Then I won’t be able to sleep at night because I’ll have endless conversations with them in my head where I brilliantly and logically explain my point of view in a way that they couldn’t possibly disagree with me–and yet they still do.

So I’ll try again and again and again until I feel like I’m banging my head against the wall and then the alarm goes off and it’s morning and it starts all over again.

So I don’t talk about politics with them.

And it’s really not the end of the world. We have plenty of other things to talk about. In fact, it’s amazing how much time you can spend with someone when your children are the same age or you’re working on a common cause before you realize how far apart you are politically.

But once that barrier has been broken it’s hard to go back, and politics becomes the elephant–or the donkey–in the room that you try to ignore but can’t quite get out of your mind.

Published in the Santa Barbara Daily Sound on September 19, 2008.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.