In my fumbling attempt to keep up with far-flung friends from all walks of life, I have been hearing myself have much of the same conversation over and over lately. Here is a transcript of the most recent:
Me: "Ok, I kind of have a little bit of news and I don't want you to freak out."
Friend: "Spill it."
Me: "Well...I've made a new friend."
Friend: "Oh, fantastic!"
(I pause somewhat dramatically, thinking of what to say next now that it was officially out there.)
Friend: (Sensing my deliberation.) "What? Who is this person?"
Me: (Taking a breath) "Ok, seriously, he's just a friend, so please don't freak out, but...ok...I'll just say it: he's a Republican."
Friend: "What? Are you serious? Like for real Republican?? How is this even possible?"
Me: "Seriously, he's a very cool person, and if you ever meet him, you have to promise me that you'll be respectful of your differences, but yeah, he's like Grade A For Real Republican-Republican."
(We both laugh at our obvious over-the-top antics.)
Me: "Not all Republicans are evil, you know."
Friend: "Oh, I'm sure...but most of them are."
Me: "See, it's precisely statements like that which actually make me want to be friends with more of them--just to de-bunk the myth. These sorts of misunderstandings between people are why wars are fought in the first place. And, think about it--how strong is a nation with a people divided?"
Friend: "Jesus, Nam...you're like Kum-ba-Ya on a peace, love and a yoga mission! What, you think you're gonna light some incense and chant "Om" to this guy a few times and he'll suddenly see it your way and change his political views and convictions?"
Me: "Actually, no, not at all." (Laughing)
Friend: "Liar! You are!!" (Laughing back.)
Me: "Ok, well, maybe...Ha!--But it's not about me! It's about being open to alternative perspectives!"
Friend: "I love you, but you're a serious dumbass and you know it."
Me: "I love you, too, but that right there is what's wrong with this country."
The conversation moved to other matters of personal and less political importance. In the end, the test of a good friendship is respecting certain obvious boundaries and knowing when to agree to disagree.
However, it occurred to after we hung up: Intolerance can't be fought with intolerance. Or, as my favorite homeboy M.K. Gandhi famously said, "An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind."
I'm learning that it's possible to make new friends with marginally opposite ideological leanings...and this...is not a bad thing.
Namaste, Friend of All Peoples (even Republicans), and Kum-ba-ya Extraordinaire