discuss religion or politics. That was the message we were given early on.
But I’m originally a New Yorker, and my friends and I didn’t adhere to that
rule. We relished a good political
argument, it was a way to exercise our brains. We’d go after each other with
voices raised and eyes blazing. When the fireworks were over, we’d raise our
glasses in friendship. But in recent years, these “arguments” among friends no
longer feel safe. Don’t discuss politics
is the current rule among friends of conflicting viewpoints.
Several months ago, I had lunch
with a good friend of almost twenty years. We talked freely about family,
health and our recent activities. There was an empty space of uneasiness in our
conversation. We tiptoed around and avoided one topic. Despite events on the
domestic front, we made no mention of politics. She and I are of different
political parties, and we feared our friendship might be on the line..
We expect our politicians to reach
across the aisle with unifying discourse and create legislation to benefit all the
American people. Yet we can’t reach across a lunch table and feel comfortable
saying, “As a Democrat I feel this way,” or “As a Republican I feel that
way.” We shrink back in hesitation; intent
on protecting our friendship.
Recently, I had lunch with the same
friend. This time, I decided to break the rule.
“Any chance we can
talk politics? No judgment, just a
peaceful exchange of our viewpoints, even if they differ.”
Her brow wrinkled and her eyes looked away. When she returned my gaze, she nodded in agreement. We began our discussion, hesitantly at first, but as the hour progressed, our conversation flowed more naturally. We reached a deeper level of understanding. Most importantly, despite our differences, our friendship is intact.