This post is going to be a bit of a downer, but I promise it has a reason. It’ll also beunder 2000 words. Yay, me! I have self-restraint. Here’s some statistics, firstly:
According to a 2014 Pew Poll: 27% of Democrats see the Republican Party as a threat to the nation’s well-being, while 36% of Republicans saw the Democratic Party as a threat to national well-being.
I can only imagine that Trump’s election has increased this antipathy a million fucking fold since then. You don’t have to take my word for it. How many of you have lost friends on Facebook or in real life just because your politics didn’t line up perfectly? For people who use dating apps, how many potential dates have put in their profile that they hate [insert political figure here] and you must to if you want a chance with them? Yes, it’s gotten to the point where people won’t even hook up with each other if they don’t like the other’s politics on the most surface level. It’s become such an us vs. them situation that not even drunken fucking can bridge that gap anymore.
That sentiment is pretty well reflected here, wherein a liberal son just can’t get over how his dad is an evil Republican and is rightly lambasted for it by an awesome 90s rock singer. Hell, have you read the comments on any articles about horrible things befalling people from the American Mid-West or South? Tolerant Liberals (TM) flood the place, claiming that those places must be full of Trump supporters, therefore fuck ’em. There are left wing people who don’t like or support antifa? Fuck them, they’re pretty much terrorists too, and there’s no reaching across the aisle anymore. They are the enemy. They don’t get human empathy anymore, because we have decided that they disagree with us politically (even if it’s not accurate, like the Charlie Hebdo cover controversy where incredibly liberal Houston, Texas was depicted as a bunch of drowning right-wing Nazis by another country that either doesn’t understand American politics at all or is just really good at trolling).
People have come to treat politics like a kind of moral litmus test. And to a certain degree, I get that. If your politics are “kick all the blacks out of the country and gas the Jews” or “take property and voting rights away from white people in order to make up for their privilege,” yeah, I can understand you being called a bad person. The problem is that people with reasonable, benign political beliefs are automatically being seen as just as bad as the above examples when, in reality, their “enemies” probably don’t even disagree with them too terribly much.
Here’s where the downer part comes in. It requires some background.
I had a friend–let’s call them Sarah. Sarah was my friend since high school, one of my closest friends. We both wanted to become writers. We both loved reading. We both liked science. We both wanted to leave small town rural America for bigger, brighter things. Sarah went to college a few years before me and quickly got involved with what’s stereotypical of the college scene now: post-modern, Marxism-inspired social justice activism. They didn’t want to talk about reading or writing or science anymore, just their social justice pet issue, and it got tiring.
I wasn’t the only one to notice that or feel that way. Our old classmates and teachers who we both still kept in touch with saw the change and thought it was for the worse. You see, Sarah was mentally ill–obsessive compulsive disorder, pretty severe obsessive compulsive disorder. The anxiety of college brought out the worst of it. I was one of the few people Sarah ever told about their mental health problems to begin with, and I was one of the people who they talked to when it was giving them a particularly difficult time. Having to juggle it and school work and job searching was taking its toll, and they clung onto activism even more–particularly the neuro-diversity activism that said therapists were bad because they treated mental illnesses like illnesses and not just quirky eccentricities.
From the outside it was easy to see why they was so invested in social justice–it was their way of dealing with her worsening mental health. Around the same time, Sarah, a pretty militant atheist, decided to become a Unitarian Universalist and go to “church” again. It was obvious that they wanted to be a part of something, to have a support group, and that’s why social justice was such a big deal to them. It seemed like everyone could see that but Sarah, and it made me angry. It made me angry that they seemed so un-self aware about their own issues; it made me angry that social justice was preying on my friend’s insecurities and need to belong somewhere.
Because all Sarah wanted to talk about was social justice after a while, it eventually became clear to that we didn’t see eye to eye on those topics. It’s not like we outright argued over it, but I think the subconscious death-glare I sent their way when they made some comment about how “black people just can’t ever succeed without help” let them know how I felt about their shiny new set of social beliefs. And because of that mutually felt strain on our relationship we drifted apart. Sarah didn’t feel comfortable going to me with their problems anymore.
The last real conversation I had with Sarah was me coming up with some believably benign lie so I wouldn’t have to hang out with her while I was back in our home town. Because talking to her online was less trying than doing it in person. After that, a few GIFs were sent, some funny nerd articles and emojis and all that, but no real conversation. And then Sarah committed suicide.
And I had no idea. I had no idea that they were clinically depressed. I had no idea that they had decided to go off her meds. I had no idea how they were feeling. The person who used to stay up until sunrise talking to me about things they weren’t comfortable telling anyone else–who shared with me and only me a non-fiction story they wrote about their torturous stay in a Christian psyche ward as a child and who trusted me to be the one to help them come out to their strict evangelical family as an atheist–didn’t even tell me that they were depressed.
And why? Because our politics were slightly different? One of my best friends, and I didn’t know they wanted to kill themself because we let our irrelevant opinions on something we don’t even have a fucking say in make us both believe that we didn’t support each other anymore. I might as well have stopped talking to them over them liking DC more than Marvel for all the relevancy those political opinions had to our actual lives and our actual relationship. But, for some stupid fucking reason, we both thought it was especially relevant.
So I was left sitting in the back row during their funeral, thinking to myself how much they would hate the entire ordeal–my atheist friend’s parents disrespecting their daughter’s beliefs and throwing a very, very Christian funeral with prayers to God and talks of an afterlife that my friend very patently did not believe in. And that was that. Nothing more to be done.
Moral of the story: Politics are stupid, and your opinion of them is in all likelihood more than worthless in the end of the day. When you’re feeling down in the dumps, your opinion on America’s immigration policy isn’t going to say something to make you laugh despite how bad you were feeling before. Your thoughts on Islam aren’t going to show up at your beside with enough soup and orange juice to last for days because they heard you were sick. Don’t let that one set of worthless opinions ruin things in your life that actually matter.