Last week a friend texted to let me know he wrote something for a major publication that I probably wouldn’t like in a pretty significant way. He was right. I didn’t like it.
But it was his opinion.
And he’s my friend.
I thought he was wrong in ways that were damaging to political principles we both shared. He obviously disagrees or he wouldn’t have written the piece.
But guess what? Even if he had actually attacked principles I believed head-on—even if he ended up on the opposite side of the ideological spectrum from me…
He’d still be my friend.
The primary reason any of us should have a political opinion about anything, ostensibly, is that we believe our ideas would make life better for everyone, not only ourselves but also those we care about.
Friends and family should come first and politics, second.
But how often do we hear about friends or family members who become to cold to one another over political disagreements? Fathers who rarely speak to their sons or daughters because of who they voted for? Siblings who stop communicating over some political argument? Best friends who aren’t anymore because of a philosophical difference? People who unfriend you on Facebook (actual friends, not just online passersby) merely because there’s a disagreement of some sort?
Politicians can definitely do serious damage, but politics itself is almost always temporary. If you have a son or a daughter, surely that relationship is more important than whether they voted for Bill Clinton or Bob Dole in 1996. If you have a brother or sister, that relationship is certainly more important than their opinion on climate change or Obamacare.
Shouldn’t your best friend be more important than even the best candidate?
Writing about libertarian-conservative politics is a significant part of my identity and how I earn a living. But outside of my passion and career, particularly back home in South Carolina away from Washington, DC, there’s a sizable network of friends, family members and acquaintances who I appreciate—many of whom probably don’t appreciate my politics.
I know, because we’ve all talked about it. I’ve been cheered by some for what I believe. I’ve been confronted by others about those same beliefs. Many late night conversations, usually involving alcohol, have been spent with people I’ve known for years who’ve told me they agree or disagree with something I’ve written. Sometimes they’re passionate. Sometimes they’re even angry.
On certain occasions, these situations did not end well. But this hardly ever happened with someone who actually cared about me, and I, them.
It’s maturity. It’s decency.
As the 2016 election gets underway in earnest, friends and family across the country could end up having knockdown, drag-out fights over the candidates they love and those they hate. Certain issues will have us all at each other’s throats.
But those with the right priorities will not let temporary disagreements escalate into permanent divisions. Some of the flashpoint issues that divide the country at the macro level shouldn’t disrupt personal relationships at the micro level.
I appreciated the text my friend sent on the day his piece was published. It was considerate and respectful. That’s how friends are supposed to treat each other.
Politics is significant. Important, even. But it’s not the only thing that’s important.
Rarely is it what’s most important.