Is it possible to be friends with a conservative Republican?
Let me rephrase: Is it possible for a liberal Democrat to be friends with a conservative Republican?
Many people might be quick to support that idea that you can, and in fact, should be friends with members of the opposing political party. Perhaps at one time, this was possible in the real-world scenario of an emotionally-charged election year. But in 2012, when the presidential election is becoming less about your view on macro, abstract governmental policies and more about the value of a human being, how realistic is a friendship across party lines?
A quick Google search on the subject comes up with several websites that give tips on how to deal with both friendships and romantic relationships between people of opposing political views. "The only way to make a relationship between ideological opposites work is to NOT personalize the differences between you," says one women's website. Wikihow counsels not to choose a friend by their politics, but rather by their "loving heart, honesty and reliability." Even About.com advises friends with differing political views to "agree to disagree".
This all makes sense, on a superficial level. It also makes sense that we can have certain friends because, just like us, they like horror movies instead of unlike us, they are Republican. It's all very much rainbows and sunshine and compassion and understanding.
But here's the reality: This election is no longer about abstract laws and policies that may not affect all Americans on a regular basis. This election, more than anything else, is about how you believe people should be treated. This election, more than any before it, is about fighting hatred, misogyny, homophobia, elitism and ignorance.
The Republican party of 2012 is no longer the ideological Republican party of Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt that believed in freedom for all and Progressive Era activism and reform. The Republican party of 2012 is the party of Kansas House Speaker Mike O'Neal, who believed and publicly stated that the Bible called for President Obama to be killed. The Republican party of 2012 is the party of Ann Coulter, who created a media stir by calling the President of the United States a "retard" and then never apologized. The Republican party of 2012 is the party of Wisconsin State Representative Roger Rivard, once endorsed by VP nominee Paul Ryan, who believes that rape happens because "some girls rape so easy."
This election may be, in large part, about the economy. But the fact that simply can't be ignored is that it's also about how the Republican party believes that women, gays, the poor, the disabled, senior citizens, and veterans are second-class citizens.
Over the past six months alone, men in the Republican party have called pregnancy from rape something "God intended,", implied that only certain types of rape are "legitimate," and compared having a baby of wedlock to getting pregnant from rape. The Republican party's own vice presidential nominee believes that rape is just another "method of conception."
Members of the Republican party have also gone so far as to compare homophobia to incest, call homosexuality a "sexual disorder," and state that gay bullying is the victim's fault.
One famous Republican called President Obama a "food stamp president."
The Republican presidential nominee himself has written off half the nation. The Republican presidential nominee himself believes that women can't work as hard as men because they have to go home to cook dinner. The Republican presidential nominee was, himself, a bully.
So, is it possible to be friends with someone with different political views than your own? Maybe. But when the party they stand for is about mistreating everyone who isn't exactly like themselves, shouldn't we ask ourselves whether we should simply "agree to disagree" and accept that kind of pervasive hatred? Shouldn't we be asking ourselves whether our conservative Republican friends who stick up for their party at all costs truly believe in "loving hearts" and "honesty"?
The objective reality is that it's impossible to actually live a life filled with compassion and understanding when your party attacks a black camerawoman, calling her an "animal," and also breeds racism by wearing shirts stating "Put the white back in the White House." The objective reality is that defending indefensible actions makes you part of the problem.
Our voting choices in this election are, more than anything, about the content of our characters.
My own subjective reality is that I don't want friends that are part of the problem, I want friends that are part of the solution. I want to be able to open up an intelligent political discourse without having to explain again and again why racism and homophobia are wrong. I want friends in whom I can believe and whom I respect. Unfortunately, if you're voting for a party whose every action smacks of ignorance and hatred, not only do I not respect you, but in fact, I don't like who you are.