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politics aside

Lately me and my friend have been arguing a lot about political issues.Usually I try to avoid these conversations with her because I know we don’t agree and probably never will.

She just can’t stop making little digs and comments that she knows will bother me. It’s really starting to cause some bad feelings.

I see this happening with other people too. Are America’s political differences driving a big wedge in our friendships?

Sometimes the things my friend says really makes me question how I can be friends with someone who believes these things.

I hate feeling this way, but some of her views are borderline bigotry!

Is it worth losing a friend over this?

—Divided We Fall

The Practical Cogitator says: Oh! I am in this exact situation! It’s been manifesting and ebbing for years now. I suppose you’ll have to decide how important this friendship actually is. Mine is an old-gold childhood friend: We grew up as young ones together when pretending, shopping, makeovers, and singing Annie songs at sleepovers were the import of the day. If I met this woman today, would we become friends? I highly doubt it.

However, as we grow into adulthood times change, opinions develop, and things important to our lives change. Just because we grew up in a similar socio-economic environment doesn’t mean we are in similar situations now. We’ve decided (many times) not to discuss politics, and just as you’ve suggested, the topic comes up. Generally, I tell this friend, in a sing-song voice, “You’re doing it again,” or I’ll change the subject to something mundane like the centerpiece or the weather. Now, do you want to spend your social outing discussing the weather and silly table decorations? That’s what you have to decide. Me, I’m secretly hoping that we fall into a rendition of “It’s a Hard Knock Life”…

The Straight Skinny: If this is about political discord, that’s one thing: It’s good to keep folks around who will challenge your point of view. Learn to enjoy and learn from the argument, and cherish those qualities in your friend that you admire.

But if your friend is a bigot, that’s another story. No one needs that poison in her inner circle. The border between bigotry and non-bigotry is a pretty thin ribbon. If you’re telling yourself that your friend is a “borderline” bigot, odds are she really is a bigot, and only your friendship compels you to locate her on the threshold.

They say you can’t pick your family but you can pick your friends. That’s only sort of true. Some of our friends are foisted upon us—by other friends, by lifetime associations, by our careers. It can be difficult to discharge a friend if the friendship is old, even if the friend bears no resemblance to the person she was, say, 20 years ago. (Or perhaps it’s you who have changed a great deal.) It’s far easier to allow a relationship to continue, no matter how uncomfortable or untended it has become. But that’s a passive, unhealthy way to live.

How would you react to the things you’re friend believes if they were expressed by a stranger? If that stranger sounds like David Duke to you, then you’ve got to cut ties. It’s bad for you, and it might be bad for your reputation: What do other folks think of a bigot’s friend?

Thick and Thin Says: No one in your life is going to agree with you 100 percent. If they did, you might as well not bother going out and just fraternize with the little voices in your own head. That said, you need to decide wether or not this is a deal-breaker in your relationship. Plenty of my friends see the world differently, but that is part of what I like about them. It makes me think. I might not always agree with them, but they have as much of a right to their opinions as I have to mine (even if they are wrong). And when they get really annoying, I’m a big fan of “Let’s agree to disagree.”

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