Friends Across the Aisle

Don’t 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.

written by Amy Bryant, Safety Harbor Resident Blogger
Author of “You Can Go Home Again

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