Have you ever had a friend with whom you disagree on something? You know what I mean – someone you’ve known for a while; shared things with; commiserated with; know some of their family; treated to lunch or dinner for their birthdays. I have a few of those friends. As a bonafide introvert, I don’t have many friends in the first place, so I value those relationships I’ve managed to maintain over any length of time.
I had one such friend, Pete*, until recently. He and I have known each other for over 30 years. Ironically, we attended the same parochial grade school in Dallas. I didn’t know him back then, as he’s three years younger. Even more curious is that our fathers had known each other; they grew up in the same East Dallas neighborhood and attended the same high school. When Pete’s father died several years ago, my father was heartbroken, as the two hadn’t spoken in a while. I attended the funeral service at a church in downtown Dallas. In turn, Pete attended my father’s memorial service in 2016; his sister and her young daughter joined him.
Pete used to host annual Christmas gatherings at his apartment; his sister and her two sons, along with many of that family’s mutual friends, joining us. In effect, I became part of their family. I was fond of Pete’s parents, as he was of mine, and was truly excited when one of his nephews joined the U.S. Marine Corps in 2006.
So what happened?
Last month “The New Yorker” published an editorial on the sudden and unexpected support for Donald Trump among Latinos. In Texas trump won a larger share of the Latino vote in the last election than he did in 2016. Reading the piece left me stunned – and curious. How could a man who made such derogatory comments about Mexicans in general, the same one who hurtled rolls of paper towels at people in Puerto Rico, find greater support from others in those same groups? Even though Trump had disparaged Mexican immigrants, I felt it was just a small step away from demonizing all people of Mexican heritage or ethnicity; people whose Indian and Spanish ancestors had occupied what is now the Southwestern U.S. since before Trump’s predecessors arrived on the East Coast. Many of those people are also among the nation’s working class; the blue collar workers who form the unappreciated and under-appreciated backbone of any society. And yes, even the white collar workers, such as myself, who have struggled through the chaos of corporate America. Regardless of race or ethnicity we’re the ones who suffered the most in the last Great Recession and in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. That an arrogant, elitist, tax-cheating buffoon of a charlatan can find kindred souls in this crowd truly boggles my mind.
Pete, on the other hand, said the editorial made “perfect sense” so him. He had already expressed some support for Trump, especially in relation to his reactions to China. He then went on to demonize both Joe Biden and Kamala Harris; dubbing them “evil” and decrying what he perceived to be their socialist agenda. In other words, Pete was reiterating the paranoid mantra of right-wing extremists.
But he went further. He bemoaned the stimulus payments coming out of Washington; claiming they were unnecessary and that anyone suffering financial distress during the pandemic and the ensuing economic downturn deserved no help or sympathy; that they should have prepared better for such a calamity.
I pointed out that I was one of those people struggling now. I had taken off a lot of time to care for my aging parents and had managed to save some money over the years; adding that a lot of that hard-earned money was now gone and reminding him I have had trouble – like so many others – finding a job. I also noted that it’s that people don’t or won’t save money; it’s that they can’t – not with both the high cost of living and stagnant wages.
Pete sounds like many evangelical Christian leaders – the folks he once denounced as the heathens of Christianity – the idiots who propagate the myth that poverty is a result of moral failings; that people choose to be poor because they have no desire to work hard and sacrifice. He got upset with me over that; he – a devout Roman Catholic – being compared to an evangelical Christian?! The people who read and study only half the Christian Bible?! How dare I make such an analogy!
But that’s how I felt. Then and now. His new-found beliefs and sudden change of attitude are one reason why I left the Catholic Church and why I no longer align with any branch of Christianity.
I reiterated my discussions with Pete to friends and a relative who his both agnostic and generally conservative. The latter considers himself a Republican and has been very successful in life. He also subscribes to “The New Yorker” and had read that particular editorial. And he found it “awful” that so many Texas Latinos supported Trump who he does not like. He also noted that anyone can experience financial problems and that a lack of personal resources isn’t always a sign of any kind of moral failings. Like me he was raised Roman Catholic, but – unlike me – is not in any way spiritual. He also reassured me that I’m not a failure. A few other friends have told me the same. At times like this, I need that kind of support.
It’s a shame I felt the need to sever ties with Pete. I mean, how does a 30-plus-year friendship come to an end over an editorial? Is that something that needed to happen? I wonder if I was overreacting or my past hyper-sensitive persona had suddenly resurrected itself.
I’d like to know if any of you folks have encountered the same dilemma. Have you ever felt the need to end a friendship with someone over such strong personal disagreements?