You are Not My Conservative Friend

Two years ago, my husband and I went to Central Europe and heard the stories of those once neighbors—laughing together, eating supper, playing cards—who fell to pieces over “Serb” and “Croat” and “Muslim,” and began killing one another.

We all know the stories of Germany where those who were once the piano teacher, the gardner, the old lady in the flat below became “the Jews,” and were sent to the ovens to die.

We read with dismay how those in the Middle East—Sunnis and Shias, Coptic Christians and Muslim Egyptians—work together, play together, marry one another—do everything but worship together—then begin slaughtering one another.

We say it can’t happen here, but it already has. With Native Americans—even those who had become Christians, living next door to the whites, knocking on their doors to borrow sugar. Our neighbors, until the sparkle of gold or the greedy cotton seed forced them off the land and onto the Trail of Tears, a trail that swallowed one-fifth of the Cherokee nation in death. And that’s only part of it.

I pray it won’t happen here again, but I read how Facebook “friends” talk to one another, and I hear it in the name-calling, labeling, cursing. The objectification of the “liberal” or “conservative” (and folks aren’t using those words, but I’m not gonna repeat ugliness). The coarse appellations tagged on the other side’s candidate, then repeated with glee. The discourse is as unattractive when someone’s attacking an “opponent” as when those in a like-minded thread are echoing their beliefs. It’s terrible, really. The way neighbor is speaking to neighbor. Friend to friend. Former neighbor, former friend.

I type these words from the great room of the house we recently finished building. During those many months, we dealt with electricians and assemblers, landscapers and garbagemen, utility workers and architects, designers and cabinetmakers, curtain hangers and sofa salesmen. I don’t know the political persuasion of a one of them. Some, I’m certain, are “conservatives” who hold wildly different ideas than my “liberal” self.

But that’s not the way I see them.

I see the Direct TV guy who sweated on my porch for an hour in 100 degree heat to get our TV working. And the mover who lifted an entire set of bunk bed iron onto his shoulder and hauled it up two flights of stairs. And the cabinetmaker who patiently met until we came up with not cabinets at all but a work table. And the sofa salesman who called two days after his surgery to make sure the sofa delivery had gone well. And the garbagemen who made a second, special trip to pick up our trash because they didn’t know we’d moved in and needed garbage pick-up. And the architect who specified down to the detail of frigging lightbulbs, because he wanted us happy.

These men and women built us a sanctuary and became our neighbors. Yet, I am supposed to redefine them based on whether they are “liberal” or “conservative”? I won’t do that, anymore than I will give into the incessant, seductive political drumbeat and redefine friends who have shown me their caring, support, and even love, simply because we have differing political thoughts.

They say the election is “divisive.” But it can only be divisive if we agree to be divided based on thoughts we’ve conjured up in our heads. I don’t agree to let that happen.

No, you are not my conservative friend. You are my friend.

 

 

 

conservative vs liberal, divisive election, my conservative friends, politics

Comments (22)

    • You figured it out! Wonder how you did it? I’ve researched this question before, having lost the Reblog button when I went self-hosted. From my end, I got notice of a pingback, which usually happens when I insert in a new post a link to an older post, and approved it, which seems to have activated it on your blog. In any event, thank you very much!

  • The labels demonstrate such shallow thought, lazy thinking wrought with fear, that too often seek endorsement in the social media. A sad state of affairs to be sure. One hopes the voices of compassion and charity might bring them pause for introspection, to see beyond our differences to find that common thread of humanity. A great post!

  • A lovely thought, worth remembering as the election heats up, but a little too relativistic for me. Truth is already a serious casualty and the things being said about minorities, women and immigrants are way beyond the boundaries of decency and civility. People who talk that way are not my friends.

    • Fortunately, none of my friends are talking like that—I see it on the comments of “friends” of friends. I think there is a difference between “speaking truth to power” (which you are so good at) and labeling groups of folks so as to dismiss them as less-than. I hope I’m talking about the latter. 🙂

  • This is perfectly perfectly beautiful and so very well said. I hope that many will read it and more importantly listen. My favourite joke goes like this: Question: How many psychiatrists does it take to change a lightbulb? Answer: Only one, but the lightbulb has got to want to change. We can if we will. Thank you to Suzanne for pointing me to your blog which I have decided to follow 🙂

  • I have always felt this way, and acted this way, and taught my children to live this way. Sadly however, this year, we have had to close some very people (family and friends) out of our lives … I honestly do not care that they are conservative and we are a very liberal, multi-racial family. I care that their hate – their vehemence about ousting mutli-racial people (oh, but not you and yours) from our country has become so toxic that the fear in my children;s eyes is over-powering.

    #HateISPersonal …. and I am very very sad about having to avoid some people and conversations, but the safety of MY children is on the line, and taking advantage of my tolerance is not allowed. Not any more.

    I am sad .. because people with whom I grew up, people whom I have loved my whole life, people in my family, my cousins, my uncles, as well as very dear friends since childhood act clearly against what my Asian-born daughters, what my mixed race nieces and nephews, need and are entitled to have: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

    I am sorry … but right now, in this country, with the hate being spewed forth so violently … accepting the intolerance of others is a luxury … it is, indeed, privilege …. and frankly, NO, my country is NOT going to go down the toilet – not on my watch, NO

    • I am so sorry for what you and your family have gone through, particularly your children. I agree with all you have to say (addressing hate and, when the hate becomes too much, to discontinue the interaction, while also condemning hate in general). I often feel I could be better at doing this myself, though I’m sure my Facebook friends think I do it way too much :). The concern that prompted this post was my needing to fight against letting the hate take over ME so that I begin hating all conservatives because I have labeled them conservatives and we all know how conservatives are, exactly the same way conservatives know how liberals are. You have already made that distinction (“I honestly do not care that they are conservative and we are a very liberal, multiracial family”) so you may just be further along than I am. 🙂 I do appreciate your commenting so that I had to better articulate this.

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