Since 2016, many friendships have ended because a lot of people were more vocal about their political affiliations. Before 2016, politics were always regarded as something you talk about behind closed doors, and even then only with certain people. People were able to leave their political party behind the curtains in the voting booth.
But with such a polarizing set of candidates, 2016 changed literally everything. Politics became personal, and as a result, we saw many friendships end over politics. Except, the reasons those friendships really ended go much deeper than “just” politics.
In the last 30-plus years, the Republican party has become increasingly more conservative. We’re talking to the point of dangerous extremism. Their candidates tend to support a platform of “family values,” meaning they uphold a cisgender, heteronormative concept of the “nuclear” American family. Even though you can walk out your door and find that narrative doesn’t really exist anymore.
The other piece of their platform is that somehow there is an “attack” on whiteness. Meaning that minorities will try to take over the country and must be kept under control. As our country becomes more ethnically diverse, it may feel like there are fewer white people, but that is simply untrue, and kind of ridiculous.
Politics have always been personal. People align themselves with the political party they feel will most greatly benefit them in the long run. But when the political party you choose to align yourself with builds their foundation on concepts rooted in the oppression of literally millions of people, your friends who are being oppressed are likely to have concerns. Friendships end over politics when those politics are rooted in exclusion and marginalization of those who are already excluded and marginalized.
As a black, poor, queer single mother, I fall into several of the key targets of conservative Republican ire. I have been a recipient of SNAP (food stamps), I receive federally funded healthcare for my son, and my sexual orientation and race really make me a moving target. Prior to 2016, I didn’t really talk about politics with my friends. Many of those I’m closest to are, like me, very vocal about our beliefs that marginalized people reserve a right to live just freely as the majority (in this case, cisgender, heterosexual white people.)
Leading into the 2016 election, and those few months between the election and inauguration, several of my friendships ended over politics. There were a few reasons why, but the overall reasons was that I didn’t feel comfortable continuing relationships with people who were either celebrating the election of a man who ran on a platform of hate and oppression, or who subsequently felt superior enough to take pleasure in the pain of those who had real fear about the future.
Anyone who had friendships end over politics, especially in those days and months post November 2016, will tell you that while they felt like knee jerk reactions, they weren’t really. When someone shows you that side of themselves, it feels like a slap in the face. But I know that there is a time where your finger is hovering over the “unfriend” button. You’re thinking to yourself, “Am I really going to let this friendship end over politics?” But then, clarity comes.
Because it’s never really about “just” politics; it’s about values, priorities, and core beliefs.
“Politics” reflect some portion of all those things. The president ran his entire campaign on hate and fear. Fear that immigrants were coming into this country to rape and steal. Hate of people with brown skin who were literally running for their lives from countries that America has ravaged with war. Hate of women. Fear of black men. None of his stances were “political;” they were personal.
Choosing to support him means you support a hatred of women in hijabs, of men in turbans, innocent mothers seeking asylum and having their babies ripped from their arms. I hear people say they don’t support those things, but they liked what he had to say about jobs. But that’s the thing about voting — when you vote for someone, you’re voting for all of the parts of their platform, not just the parts you like. And with a platform like that, you’re going to have to do some major reconciliation with your conscience.
The president and the vast majority of his political party are perfectly fine with innocent people dying in the name of their political agenda. Hate crimes are on the rise. As a black woman, I fear certain situations because I don’t know how they will end. White men with access to guns can kill me literally anywhere. Their hateful children can bully children like my son for being mixed race. Or they can bully another child for being gay or transgender, leading these kids to potentially die by suicide because they feel that’s their only way out.
Women are living with the fear that the government is stripping away their rights. If a woman medically needs a late term abortion, or a woman wants an abortion because she does not want a child, they are subjected to more scrutiny than a man who wishes to purchase a military-level assault rifle. These are the times we’re living in. So many of us are walking around with our guards up because we simply do not feel secure leaving the house.
Poor children aren’t getting an adequate education. Children coming to this country for the safety to grow up are being stored in internment camps where they are subjected to harsh living conditions and the fear of rape. All of this is being done in the name of making America “great.” How is any of this great?
This is why friendships end over politics. It’s not the fact that you have different political affiliations. It’s that your political affiliations support the dehumanization of millions of people who call America home. By voting for anyone who calls themselves a conservative, you are saying that you are okay with millions of people being subjected to life or death conditions.
Friendships end over politics because people with a conscience cannot support their friends who support people without a conscience. When you say those who end their friendships are being “immature,” you’re wrong. Immaturity is voting for people who get ahead by being the bullies on the playground. Or being selfish enough to vote for liars, cheaters and murderers because the other side is supposedly “trying to take our guns away.” It’s immature to vote for a man who openly admits to sexual assault while saying that Mexicans who cross the border are coming to the United States to rape our women and get everyone addicted to cocaine.
Real, mature adults understand that there is a world outside their neighborhood. Those people deserve rights to a livable wage, the same freedoms that everyone is supposed to have. No city in America should have tainted water. Families shouldn’t be wondering where their next meal is coming from. People with brown skin should be able to walk down the street and live their lives without being harassed or killed.
Friendships end over politics when people realize that their friend’s politics are intrinsically tied to the suffering of others. And that is simply unacceptable.