Personal reflections on the eve of the US Presidential Inauguration, an open letter to a lost friend
As Donald Trump is inaugurated as the 45th US president tomorrow I am reminded of what I have lost in the build up to the 2016 election.
It is odd that we are no longer friends given that as an Australian I have no direct stake in the US politics. But you, as a recently naturalized citizen and ten-year resident of California, are directly affected.
I knew when you sent me that message that you were trying to find out if I needed to be cut like a cancer from your life. You asked for photos of family, for updates on work, on life more generally, and what I thought about the upcoming US election. My response to this last question was deliberately vague.
But in the end I didn’t keep secret my political leanings. As I daily witnessed a Facebook feed awash with pro-Hillary, pro-socialist propaganda, posted by you, posted by just about everyone one else I knew and worked with, it felt necessary to also start sharing the bits of news and information that I had come across, and which seriously challenged mainstream pro-Hillary narrative. It became a matter of integrity to be part of the conversation and share alternative perspectives.
But still, it came as a surprise when your presence suddenly dropped from my feed.
Most everyone else that I am connected with online are acquaintances, colleagues, former school mates, people that have little to lose by making me disappear from their daily news feed. You on the other hand, were someone that had been an integral part of my life. You set me on a better path that led me to eventually earn my doctorate, be gainfully employed, and to settle into a very happy marriage. When you met me I was a recovering addict, a single mother with no job, someone who did not possess the necessary skills to get life back on track permanently, and with very little support to speak of. You can quite confidently take some credit for what I have become.
But it seems because I have become more libertarian in my views, somewhat more conservative, you want no part of my life.
This saddens me because, while it had been over a decade since we had seen each other, or talked deeply and meaningfully, you were still one of the most valued people in my life. I knew our politics had diverged considerably, but this did not make you an enemy, or expendable.
This saddens me because you were one of the good ones, you live your life according to your beliefs, and in your job and friendships always work to help others. I respect that. However, if it is people like yourself who are now refusing to maintain friendships with people who don’t share your current political perspective, then it appears there is little hope for the future of democracy in the West as well as the US.
I realize that this sounds hyperbolic, but when you think about it, what is a nation but many millions of these individual relationships? Shared history and emotional attachments provide people with the common ground, and the incentive, to share ideas and find solutions in spite of considerable differences in opinion and belief.
If we can’t engage in this deliberative process on a micro-level with the ones we love, the people whom we genuinely care about, how on earth do we achieve it at the macro-level - as a democratic nation or Western civilization - where our connections to other strangers in society can only ever be imagined?
Carolyn, I will always hold you to be one of my dearest friends, and hopefully, one day, we will speak again, or perhaps, I’ll simply get to see the smiling faces of your beautiful children pop up on my Facebook feed. Until then…