I’ve read in a few articles that these have become such partisan times that many people are no longer willing to be friends with those of opposing views. I find that sad. There are limits, of course, to whom I’m willing to have as a friend (I won’t be friends with a Nazi or a Ku Klux Klan member for instance).
I don’t have the diversity of friendships that I had in my 20s and 30s. I’m a lifelong liberal Democrat. But over the course of my life, I’ve been friends with progressives, conservative Republicans, Democratic Socialists, Libertarians, Anarchists, Marxists, fundamentalist Christians and a wide assortment of individuals that I’ve encounter at work or at church or just among various circles of friends.
So long as they respect my right to have my own independent point of view, I’m willing to be friends with a person.
Because of various bad experiences in my life, though, I’ve learned to be wary of individuals who are ideological purists. These are individuals who have a hard time dealing with differences of opinion and look down on anyone who doesn’t believe 100% with what they believe in. Over the course of my life, these type of people have caused the most problems in my life as I’ve gotten into crazy conflicts that emotionally drained me.
So I’ve learned to look for red flag warnings. Are they honest about the mistakes of their particular side and are willing to admit that all sides are vulnerable to the frailties of human nature? Are they willing to see the humanity of the people they disagree with and not just see them as stereotypes?
If I meet a Marxist or leftist, are they open about the atrocities committed by Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and various totalitarian communist regimes?
If I meet a conservative Republican, are they just as critical of right wing authoritarians like Pinochet, Franco, Marcos and Bolsanaro as they are of left wing authoritarians?
If I meet a Christian, are they open to the mistakes of the Christian Church: the pograms and Inquisitions and witch trials; the historic persecutions of Jews, LGBTQ people, Muslims, indigenous peoples; the coverup of the priest/pedophilia scandal and the sexual abuse being found in various Protestant denominations?
I believe that no particular political ideology or group has a monopoly on truth. Progressives, conservatives, moderates, democratic socialists, libertarians and various ideologies are all right some of the time, and we’re all wrong some of the time. Our particular sides will all have accomplishments that we can be proud of. And all political sides have made terrible mistakes that we need to acknowledge and try to fix.
Several weeks ago, conservative Republican David Brooks noted in a PBS News Hour segment that many Trumpists and right wing media outlets are more anti-Left than they are conservative. There is a difference. Being anti-Left means opposing anything that the Left believes in and attempting to eliminate any areas of common ground. Brooks noted that, even with ideological differences, there are areas of common ground between true conservatives and progressives.
A democratic republic only works when people of differing views can debate the issues and be willing to compromise and find common ground when the debate reaches an impasse. Our democratic republic breaks down when its people are no longer able to do so.
Someone that I learned to admire is George Orwell. Orwell was a Democratic Socialist like Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Though Orwell was a Socialist, he became one of the biggest critics of Joseph Stalin and the Soviet Union’s totalitarian communist government. Orwell was not a blind partisan. Orwell realized that all political movements are vulnerable to the corrupting influences of power if they are not careful. Orwell’s books “Animal Farm” and “1984” were written to specifically critique Stalin’s Soviet Union. But Orwell’s critique can apply to any authoritarian government whether it be from the Left or the Right.
Here is a BBC News segment explaining why George Orwell’s book “1984” is still applicable to today’s world, where authoritarianism has been on the rise.