When disagreements turn angry and destroy friendships

It is sad when a lifelong relationship comes to a bitter end over disagreements on politics.

One such friendship came to such an end this year between a friend from my high school days over the actions of our current president, the 2016 election and religion.

I believe the misnamed “social media” drove that division.

In too many ways, “social” media is anything but.  I’ve been threatened, erroneously accused of statements I never wrote or uttered and told to “go to hell” more times than I can count.

As a general rule, I dismiss such insults but when they come from a friend of more than 50 years, I do sit back and wonder what drove such anger.  Friends used to disagree over politics, candidates and region but such debates did not linger.  Now such arguments divide friendships, relationships and coalitions to divisions that often cannot heal.

Amy and I enjoyed talking politics during our 23 years living and working in the National Capital Region of Washington, DC.  Our friends were Democrats, Republicans, Independents and more than a few Libertarians.  We both vote for candidates, not parties, and neither of us have ever registered as members of any political party.

Still, we remain friends with those of differing religious persuasions.  Our circle of good friends include Christians, Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, agnostics and atheists. Well read copies of the Bible, the Torah, the Quran, the Torah and the Tripitaka sit in the shelves of our home library.

We read all of those holy books of various faiths and have found many messages of hope and faith in each.  Amy grew up on a family of Catholics and Lutherans (Missouri Synod) and I spent my youth and adulthood in the Presbyterian Church.

Sadly, we find too many attempts to discuss belief in God or religion brings anger from others who insist that their form of religion is the only “true” one.  Our travel and experiences have led us to believe otherwise.

The same with lifestyles.  Our close friends include heterosexuals, bisexuals, gays and transgenders.  In my single days, I dated and loved a bisexual woman. One of my first cousins is gay and happily married to his same-sex partner.  Amy has many close gay friends and worked with several of them during her time in theater and entertainment.

We’ve enjoyed spirited discussions and debates over the years but now find avoid political, religious lifestyle discussions.  Too many of them turn into shouting matches where anger lingers too long afterwards.

Everyone, we believe, and should have the freedom to make up their own minds about God, religion, political persuasions or candidates without dismissal or condemnation.

I never thought different opinions, beliefs, lifestyles or moods were determining factors for friendship but when a disagreement over an elected political official, a candidate or a lifestyle ends a relationship with someone I’ve known for more than half a century, I have to sit back and wonder why.

Have I been too strident?  Have we, as a nation and society, become too partisan?   Has America, a nation founded two-and-a-half centuries ago as a home for those of different opinions, beliefs and desires turned too divisive to recover?

At this point, I have many doubts but no definitive answers.  As a soon-to-be 71-year-old man (next month), I hope and pray that I do not go to my grave without resolving those doubts.

Close friendships are important.  Losing just one leaves emptiness.