In the course of the long and bizarre path that my life has taken to date, I’ve seen some truly awful and annoying things, my fool of a brother, an amputee breastfeeding on a public street and my fastidiously liberal and conservative friends criticizing me for associating with each group.
To them, I am committing some sort of cardinal sin by knowing and being close with people they disagree with. Whether in public or on the internet, I am continually prodded with requests to “cut” this person or that person out of my life, though I love my friends, they are wrong in this regard and are foolishly advocating that I do something that will not contribute to a happy life.
I don’t recall the public figure who said it, but his or her quote about divergent friendships being the most interesting is absolutely right. When you associate with people you disagree with, you’re more likely to grow as a person as opposed to those who spend their lives in an endless echo chamber of a social circle. To me, that’s an awful and wildly foolish way to live life.
According to a recent study, 64% of “consistent conservatives” and 49% of “consistent liberals” say most of their close friends share their political views. This is a very dangerous trend that if left unchanged will transform our nation from one of political gridlock to one of magnetically sealed gridlock (Yes that’s a star wars reference.). I know this may seem silly and a little arrogant of me to say, but more people need to follow my path with respect to associations.
From my friend Luke (Name changed to respect privacy.), who is so leftist that one could mistake him for a member of the communist party, I am blessed with lively and interesting debates about economic policy and laws about firearms ownership. Generally on those two fronts I have a sort of rightist view, so it is deeply important that I can get the alternate perspectives.
From my conservative friend Stan (Again, name has been changed), I am fortunate to have lively debates on foreign policy and gay rights in America. Is he correct with his view that people who oppose same sex marriage should have a right to refuse service to gay customers that want their services for a wedding? I think so, but only to a certain extent. Were it not for my association with this man, I wouldn’t be able to have a nuanced perspective on this challenging issue.
Bottom line is this; I don’t have to explain my friendships with ideologues and I won’t apologize for associating with them. If someone is not racist, sexist, homophobic or bigoted in any other form, I can be friends with them. Everyone else should wise up and start doing the same.