I have a friend. A very good friend. Since this gentleman and his wife started renting, and subsequently buying, a condo here in the Coachella Valley desert, two doors down from me, we have grown to respect each other and enjoy each other's company. We play golf together, go out to dinner together with our wives, work on projects around our houses together, and just generally "hang out" together until they return to their home back east when the snows melt.
Both my friend and I enjoy solving puzzles. Word puzzles, and mechanical problems that come up in our homes with our cars or golf carts. We seem to compliment the interests and talents of each other. My friend is very outgoing, generous, and kind to a fault to me, my wife, and family. On the surface it would seem to be a friendship made in Heaven that should last and last. The trouble is, there is one area of sharing that, sadly, can't be explored. Conflicts haven't surfaced whenever the topics of religion, finances, sex, most any other topic. But political discussions and exchanges of ideas involving Washington D.C., the Congress and the White House, these dialogues are, so far, off limits.
It would be easy to say, "Hey, do you really want to give up a good friend over some 'slight' difference in a political viewpoint?" Or, "Is one's stance on politics more important than having a true friend whose company you enjoy?" Easier said than done! For there have been two occasions where my friend and his wife have subtly made reference to their opinion that one political party was the "right" one, and any view other than their own was foolish and unacceptable. And it so happens that my wife and I have the "other view." The man has gone so far as to say that he walks out of the room whenever his son, who holds a view other than his parent's, talks politics.
So the question comes into play, does this difference really matter? "What difference does it make if two couples don't agree on a presidential candidate, or if the country is doing enough or the most that can be done in the fight against terrorism, or in any of the other countless issues that people of differing opinions have?
But this is an easy decision, you say. Keeping a friend vs. losing one over politics? What if my friend suggests that my wife had better not bring up politics since his wife won't tolerate any suggestion that her preferred party could be wrong and she will "lay into" anyone who suggests otherwise. My friend hints that there would be no calm, respectful exchange of opinion, whether or not a close friend is involved or not. Surely no one expects to totally change anyone's mind in a political or religious or most any other discussion, for that matter. But couldn't we expect just some simple, courteous banter, each realizing that what is said is just personal opinions and points of view. My friends wife, and it could be suspected that even my friend, would have none of that "wishy-washy," like "it's only my opinion stuff." Their stated views are the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help them God.
Can you really stand by, knowing that your "friends" think that way over an alternate point of view about the goings on in national politics nowadays? Is friendship foremost? Is that "true" friendship even? Is it worth it to chance a hateful exchange and perhaps the loss of what was once a friend, just to get your differences out in the open? To say what you believe that counters their beliefs? Does being silent and fearful of expressing your position in response to others, because they might "lay into you" really equate with friendship? Is "As long as you don't challenge my political views, we can be friends" an acceptable, healthy form of friendship?
Should I go ahead and broach the subject and find out? Can a person be insulted and downgraded and still be close friends? Rather, should they? There is no doubt that I can just keep quiet and not even hint that my personal beliefs are opposed to my friend's wife's views, and probably his. Is remaining mute through fear of losing a friend because of some threat of verbal reprisal the responsible way to respond?
There are probably many topics that friends would not bring up, for fear of embarrassing the other. But that's not the case here, where bringing up or responding to a specific topic could result in a heated, confrontational exchange Would it be best to remain a friend by silence, or chance becoming a foe by being oneself? What would you do under these circumstances?