Recently, while listening to news and worrying about the immense damage this country has sustained after years of horrendously poisonous division, I switched the channel and heard the Beatles song “We Can Work It Out.” Until a few months ago, I thought such a sentiment might be something people on all sides of this nation’s chasms could endorse. But not anymore. Certainly not after the seditious violence we witnessed in Washington on Wednesday.
It’s not that this writer who likes to ride in the moderate lane hasn’t attempted to light up my corner to help us all just get along. Columns I’ve done on such for MinnPost include one I wrote shortly after the 2016 presidential election about missing holiday greetings from friends on other political planets and another I did before that election that included a poll of friends and acquaintances from across the U.S. regarding the idea that all we share might be much more than what splits us. But within the last two years or so, things have occurred within my life that have made me think such healing rapport might be something that first must be broached by politicians allegedly paid to get something useful done by working with the other political party. When some are not trying to certify a fair presidential election.
So, I’m employing radio silence among the most despicable of my contacts, with possible exceptions for brief email or Facebook birthday greetings and acknowledgements of sympathy for seriously ill or deceased relatives. Though, after this week’s attempted coup d’etat, I’m thinking even that might be too much for some people.
An excellent piece on giving supporters of President Trump the silent treatment, written by Tom Nichols, the professor, author and Project Lincoln leader, helped me crawl to this unwanted point of silence. Although I’m going further than Nichols suggests, as I’m cutting off people who support Trump as well as those who support Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders (and others) and do so not by reasoned discourse, but by bringing verbal machetes to arenas that should be weapon-free. But to be honest, most of the people I’m discarding are Trump supporters, including people who have expressed sympathy for the rioters who besmirched our Capitol and our country on a day that should have been about ceremony befitting a democracy.
Actually, I started such avoidance well before the 2020 election. Like many others, I’ve accepted Facebook requests from people from long ago. With lots of these people, it’s been wonderful to have adult friendships free of the pain that high school and even university immaturity can cause. For others, it’s been mostly awful. Unlike some who try to seriously engage such angry people, I’ve seldom entered into political discussion with any of them, mostly because I didn’t like being labeled the c-word, a godless libtard or a chicken (expletive deleted), almost conservative pseudo-writer. All things I’ve been called when I thought I could use my writer skills to dissect their obscenity-laced, data-thin diatribes. I didn’t want to cave to my baser instincts by calling them ignorant trash or people not worthy of their lakeshore homes.
Then there is the matter of other people I’ve kept in touch with through the years. Those who know me well know I’m a (moderate) Democrat. I know people who supported George W. Bush, John McCain and Mitt Romney, including some I considered close friends all through those candidacies. With some of these people, matters started cooling when Barack Obama became president. But once Donald Trump ascended to the White House, I started questioning why I had become friends with such people at all. I’m certain some thought the same of me. The lowest point came when I went to the funeral of an old friend’s parent and felt as if I were the super-sized skunk in the room. I knew then that healing national divides would be very tough indeed if even funerals can’t bring people together in some sense of shared humanity.
Now that I’ve closed correspondence with people who seem to desire fights with me or even their own divorce from me, I can’t say I miss them all that much. I’m guessing they don’t miss me either. I miss the times we had in the past. But people change. Sometimes the change is beneficial. Sometimes it isn’t. I’ve reminded myself that not all friendships must last a lifetime. Sometimes people must be walked away from forever.
To be sure, whether Americans can “work things out” remains a very, very great question. And for all my planned silence, I know the consequences of remaining so divided might be very perilous. Still, I’m going to stay quiet for the foreseeable future while looking to a day when maybe, perhaps, a few of these former friends and I can repair matters. At present, I don’t have much hope for anyone working things out in any lane, moderate or not, anytime soon.
And I’m quietly sad about having to say as much.
Mary Stanik, a writer and public-relations professional, recently moved from St. Paul to Arizona. She is the author of the novel “Life Erupted.”
WANT TO ADD YOUR VOICE?
If you’re interested in joining the discussion, add your voice to the Comment section below — or consider writing a letter or a longer-form Community Voices commentary. (For more information about Community Voices, see our Submission Guidelines.)