Art by Meghan Hoffman
Is it possible and worth it to have friends with different political beliefs? What constitutes a political belief? What about a human rights disagreement? As a result of building tension in the United States, many are left wondering how different an opinion can be before it is too different – is it okay to disagree about gun control policies? What about a difference in opinion regarding the caging of children at the border? President Trump’s public statements and social media posts have led to an influx in the number of openly sexist, racist, and anti-LGBTQ+ sentiments, meaning that many people have discovered new sides of their friends. What should you do if you find out that your friend is one of these people?
In light of the events of the last four years, the US has become highly polarized with a lot of intolerance on both sides of the aisle. If you and your friend disagree on a political issue like gun control, is that a good enough reason to end that relationship? Gun control is an important issue, but it is not telling of a person’s morals. A person can have valid reasons for supporting either side. Many political problems do not necessarily have a ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ view. Having a friend with a different stance allows you to look at issues from multiple perspectives. These differences will enable people to be more analytical and understanding, though only to a certain extent. A difference in opinion on something that shows a significant gap in basic morals could be a deal-breaker. Most differences in political views can be tolerated, but a politicized issue does not automatically translate to a political issue.
A difference in opinion regarding something as important as fundamental human rights is a valid reason to end a relationship. According to the United Nations, human rights are defined as “rights inherent to all human beings, regardless of race, sex, nationality, ethnicity, language, religion, or any other status.” These rights include the “right to life and liberty, freedom from slavery and torture, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to work and education, and many more.” The human rights dilemma at the border is not a political issue, but it has been politicized. In the case of a disagreement on this matter, there is a clear right and wrong. Suppose your friends believe that children at the border deserve to be put in cages or separated from their parents. In that case, that relationship is not worth maintaining.
What about grey areas? What if you believe that your friend is genuinely a kind person? Sometimes a person’s beliefs can be attributed to their surroundings or ignorance. In cases like that, you can attempt to inform your friend without pushing your own opinions. Rarely is an issue ever black and white, so listen to what your friend has to say as well and try to inform your friend to the best of your ability about your outlooks. Suppose your friend is unwilling to listen or look past issues of bigotry; in that case, the best step moving forward is to terminate that relationship. No matter how nice someone is to you, how they treat you is not representative of how they treat everybody else. If they do not treat everybody with compassion, then their kindness is conditional. At the end of the day, it is your choice if that relationship is worth pursuing.
Many people say that ending a relationship because of a ‘political’ disagreement is childish. Still, these issues can be very telling of morals. Ending a relationship because of a difference in morals is very practical. People should not feel that they have to continue a relationship with anyone with such a different view on how life should be. It is not a disagreement on whether pineapple belongs on pizza, but rather a dispute that affects many people’s quality of life. Relationships are built on mutual trust and respect. Once that is breached, there is no contract forcing you to stay in that relationship. If you discover that your friend voted for Trump, it is not childish to unfollow them. This friend is not saying anything openly racist, sexist, or homophobic. Still, they have decided that these are not deal-breakers for them. This shows that there is a vast difference in your morals.
Appiah, Kwame A. “Can I Stay Friends With Someone Who Voices Racist Views?” The New York Times, 25 August 2020, https://www.nytimes.com/2020/08/25/magazine/can-i-stay-friends-with-someone-who-voices-racist-views.html. Accessed 20 October 2020.
McDougal, Myres S., et al. “NON-CONFORMING POLITICAL OPINION AND HUMAN RIGHTS: TRANSNATIONAL PROTECTION AGAINST DISCRIMINATION.” Human Rights and World Public Order, vol. 2, Yale University Press, 1980, pp. 1-31. law.yale, https://digitalcommons.law.yale.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1006&context=yjil. Accessed 20 October 2020.
United Nations. “Human Rights.” United Nations, https://www.un.org/en/sections/issues-depth/human-rights/. Accessed 20 October 2020.