some of my best friends are Republican

It’s true, you know. Even though I myself am a granola-eating, tree-hugging bleeding-heart liberal.

I like to say this is line as a bit of joke. Some of my best friends are Republican.

It reminds me that much as I try to fight bigotry, I still am susceptible myself. I have my own prejudices. Perhaps I nurture my bigotry against conservatives. But there are other subtle prejudices are more disturbing when I become aware of them, as they are bigotries that I actively fight. Religious intolerance. Racism. Classism. Even sexism. It’s good to remind myself that I am still a work in progress.

I also like to say it because it’s true. Some of my best friends are Republican. And I’m actually proud of this. Much as I disagree with their political views, these friendships are important to me. Both because I care about the individuals, and because I think it is productive to find the middle ground. And while the ground I’d like to reach eventually is far left of the middle, I can’t imagine us jumping right over as a society. I think we’ll get there by persistence and by hard work in lots of arenas. I think that part of the process is to keep the discourse productive, as it makes it easier for us to recognize the common ground.

Extremists on both ends of the spectrum are guilty of distorting the discourse. There is a tendency to over-generalize, throw blame, call names. To call all those on the other side of the fence stupid. Insane. Barbaric. Evil, even. Hell, I know I’m guilty of mucking things up when I get angry. (And there is a lot that I’m angry about.)

One of my closest friends is a conservative Republican. We’ve now been friends for about 20 years, startling as that seems to me. Even early in our friendship, back in high school before either of us was particularly interested in politics, we realized that we landed squarely on opposite sides of the political spectrum. The only times we fought were about political subjects. Education. Welfare. Taxes. Class. The death penalty. So-called family values. We discovered that political topics had to stay off limits if we were going to stay friends.

Over the years, we’ve talked about many things that brush up against the more directly political topics. Likewise with other friends and family members who lean far rightward into the spectrum.

I’ve learned that a person who can hold opposite political views, who would vote so differently from me, can also have many qualities that I value and respect. I’ve noted a high level tolerance and acceptance on a personal level, loyalty, kindness, and a complete lack of malice, even while supporting policies that I consider inhumane.

Being close friends with people with quite different political views has helped me to learn tolerance and a better understanding of those viewpoints. I’ve come to believe that our core values are not always so different, but that sometimes we differ in how we define them. For example, family is important to me. But my definition of family is perhaps only broader and more flexible than the traditional middle class American one.

And perhaps my friendship has also broadened the perspectives of my more conservative friends, and nourished their own tolerance. I know that at the very least they know that it is possible to sit down at the dinner table, share a laugh, and have a friendly conversation with someone whose political views are as unabashedly liberal commie pinko as mine.

8 thoughts on “some of my best friends are Republican

  1. Great post, alejna.

    I am susceptible to that, myself.

    I remember hearing a radio documentary (I don’t remember any of the details, our national public broadcaster was my only adult friend while I was on mat leave, and for some reason I didn’t always pay close attention) wherein the subject – a left wing person, himself – said that he had friends who were on the opposite end of the political spectrum, too, and he often found conservatives to be much more engaging, fun people than liberals. One of the reasons being that they weren’t angry all the time. I found that unsettling, probably because there’s a grain of truth to it.

  2. Hullo, there. I ran across your blog through the wordpress cloud tag somewhere… anyway, I just wanted to cheer you on for having Republican friends. I have a friendship that has lasted 25+ years now; she’s a Democrat, I’m the Republican; sometimes we switch sides. We laugh and argue a lot. It keeps us both on our toes!

  3. word. and word to Sage too. i had someone once tell me that i was worse in my close minded ness because i was so sure i was right in my views (i am) and it was the same thing i am fighting against (it is)

  4. this is great. And you are so right. Many of my friends are republicans, largely because of the area in which we live. I would severely limit my circle of friends, otherwise. But you make such a good point about tolerance. We really ALL need to learn to do that a bit better so that we can DISCORSE. My husband is so much better at this than I am. I just want everyone to be where I am NOW. But I am working on it.

  5. Sage-
    Yes, there is definitely a grain of truth, there. I know with my friend, when we’d fight over political topics, I was the one who’d get really angry.

    Thanks for your comment, and congrats to you and your friend on your long friendship!

    Well, I’m sure you’re right in your views, too…Oh, wait. That wasn’t the point.

    painted maypole-
    Thanks. And here’s to keeping up the conversation!

  6. I like this. A lot. Reminds me of many things, although I’m frequently puzzled by U.S. politics. (Born and raised in Montreal, where politics are quite different from The States.)
    There’s the whole thing about tolerance. To some, tolerance is something for which we need to fight. To others, tolerance should be used even with intolerant people.
    Then there’s the “politics vs. existence” issue. Many people (journalists especially) seem to assume that politics, and especially “national” partisan politics, are the most important aspects of a person’s life. They may still know that other things are important but they act as if they forgot. To anyone who tries to look at humanity as a whole, it feels quite strange to think that this one dimension of politics would be considered so important.
    Then, there’s social identity. Defining the self by delimiting group membership. Who’s “Us” and who’s “Them?” We talk about this a lot, in social sciences. Very important issue. It may sound too “philosophical” to many but, really, what does it mean to be “a Democrat?” Does it mean that the person agrees with every decision made by every other self-labelled “democrat?” Does it mean that there’s a connection between laws about marriages and the way people handle international conflicts? From an outsider’s perspective, places like the U.S. seem rather unique in this sense. Not to be critical but it just sounds plain weird that people would use party lines so frequently. And it does go beyond the so-called “Culture Wars.”

    I’m not saying we’re better here. In fact, I have an anecdote which connects very directly with your experience as well as that of your other comment-writers.
    Was waiting for the métro (subway) in Montreal and heard a few middle-aged French-speaking Montreal women talking together. We’ve been going through something of an identity crisis and people talk about cultural differences quite a bit, these days. One of these Québécoises told the other ones (my translation): “At least, in Quebec, we’re open-minded. It’s not like Arabs!”
    I’ve been using this anecdote on several occasions and the effect has always been striking. People do get it. They might even feel bad, which is sad. But they get it. And, as a humanist, that’s all I want.

  7. enkerli-
    Thanks for your contributions to the discussion. You bring up some interesting issues, especially about identity. The whole “us” vs. “them” business is an motivating factor in the daily lives of most Americans.

    That’s a great anecdote you shared, too. Very telling, and such a common attitude. It’s much like the attitude “we shouldn’t judge others, except for those who judge others.”

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