(Opinion) Place friendships above politics
I have a very good high school friend from my past. We both have college degrees and have pursued our own professions.
We have a large geographic divide between us now, but the time of that friendship is still real to both of us. However, we have a large political divide between us, too.
To begin, I call on some really bright sunlight from my man Aristotle. (Yes, Professor Thurston, Aristotle!) Aristotle, in his Nicomachean Ethics, has an entire piece dedicated to friendship, philia.
That spirit of philia will permeate the tone of this Pioneer piece. In Aristotle, friendship is an affect and virtue and practice that we carry to support the civility of any one time or place, and it is a very happy virtue for him (and can be for us).
Keep that light about us as I proceed.
I patiently awaited the outcome of the Impeachment Trial in the Senate (week of February 8, 2021), to see if there were any changes in the political winds before committing thought to paper.
With acquittal, the divide is still the divide, neutralizing winds, a real concern for thoughtful people on both sides. My first premise here is the difficulty that my friend would have changing my ideas, and the difficulty that I would have changing my friend’s ideas.
I am well-read in the context of my progressive side, and he is well-read in the context of his populist, Trumpian side.
We are both enclosed in silos that condition us with layers of perplexity, with choice of the media we source, and some choice in our paths of education. But so much unseen conditioning hides behind every individual.
Just an aside, maybe less media and more education for all of us; to all become more of that gentle[person] farmer Jefferson so dreamed of for the success of our country.
I will define progressive as seeking progress in social justice and having a fair graduated income tax to pay for more social equality and infrastructure for all. With my friend’s help, I will define populist and Trumpian as government over-reach and as a dishonest elitism in government and academia.
We both have certain principles core to our political practice:
1: Reproductive Freedoms
Populist: Right of choice
Trumpian: Deeply pro-life
2: The media
Progressive: Mainstream media as professional
Trumpian: Mainstream media as elite and false news
Progressive: Big government
Trumpian: Very small government
4: Trump Presidency
Progressive: Trump as unsuccessful President
Trumpian: Trump as a wise, non- elitist President
Progressive: Bureaucracy as a good governance
Trumpian: Bureaucracy as an
6: Gun Ownership
Progressive: Restrained 2nd
Trumpian: Unrestrained 2nd Amendment
7: Election Outcome
Progressive: Fair 2020 election
Trumpian: Stolen 2020 election
I set these up as a framework for our disagreement and as points of consideration for the reader. Here we are: friends in a deep divide.
My Critical Thinking and Composition background at once wishes to look for middle ground in all seven points. Maybe for 3, 4, and 5, we could have very long discussions to move us both toward a middle ground.
1, 2, 6 and 7 are simply divisive for both of us.
Plus, remember all that conditioning I alluded to above. At heart, I do not want my friend to paint me as a “leftist” nor, I hope, does my friend want me to paint him as “right winger”.
I simply want to see us both as citizens with equal voting power and equal rational, free speech.
The shadow here is dark and long-thrown as it stands between two friends. I believe middle ground in all things LIFE is the best place to be for a better world. Aristotle, Confucius, Buddha, John Dewey and the Pragmatists, and Dr. King are only a few of the in-the-middle wise persons who come immediately to mind.
I hope the shadow is clear enough here, as I am anxious to bring what sunlight I can. The sunlight here comes mostly through Socrates.
Socrates only works well as the founder of our rational civilizations if you take him at his word on intellectual humility. I do.
Humility is the one pillar and principle I see here to shrink the divide.
Socratic wisdom or Socratic ignorance, take your pick. Plato’s cave is genetic to all of us.
Simply too many shadows, conditions, and cognitive biases to get it ALL right. If you accept this, then our only choice is to lean in, listen to each other, and dialogue, but with the intention of finding the Good for all.
We have cultural libraries of wisdom, and we have experience with diversity and a global perspective like no other time!
Let’s rejoice in that and share in rational and vetted and healing information. The middle really is the “other”.
Where we meet the “other” to humbly build a friendship, a community, a country, and a world together.
Science has taken the middle path of peer review and the principle to find the false and weed it out in order for truth and comradeship to grow.
In one way, my friend and I are already standing in the middle where life is social and has its best shot at happiness and Goodness. To take a stand anywhere else is to invite fear and mistrust and danger and divisiveness.
One last sunshine moment from philosophy and religion: as we make better our inner selves, so we make better the world.
As Dr. King teaches us in his sermon, “The Drum Major Instinct”, our deepest drive is to want acceptance, recognition, and to be heard. We can do that by putting others down to make us look better but harm the world or to be as brothers and sisters and to shine in our goodness for each other.
With this in mind, and to get the ball rolling, here are a few of my sunlight suggestions:
1. A few hours of PBS a week
2. Journal/reflect on your inner self, purpose, and goals
3. Follow the rules of good critical thinking (rules help bind us together)
4. Place friendship above politics
5. Be humble: give the “other” a voice and the dignity of wisdom in dialogue, but all realizing that human nature calls us to be intellectually humble, to compromise in the political arena, and to sacrifice a little for the General Welfare, our country tis of thee
And I have saved the best sunlight for last: Rumi. “Out beyond ideas of wrongdoing and rightdoing there is a field. When the soul lies down in that grass the world is too full to talk about.”
Let’s first begin our conversations with that silence.
For questions or issues to discuss, please find me at firstname.lastname@example.org and go philosophy!