There were, however, a few casualties. A few Facebook “friends” unfriended me due to my views. And a few others actually unfriended me due to a status that I posted that said something in the neighborhood of: “I’m not going to unfriend anyone just because their views and opinions may differ from mine, but in turn, I’m not going to tolerate the slamming of my views because just as people have a right to their views, I have a right to mine. Anyone who does slam me for my views would be removed from the friends list because I draw the line with toxic people.”
Yes, people actually unfriended me for that viewpoint.
This got me thinking… If someone decided to unfriend me just because I wasn’t Republican or because I voted for a third party, then why in all that is holy did they like me in the first place? Most of the people who unfriended me for these reasons were not people I knew personally (I know, I know, but hey–friends of friends is good enough, right?) and they had sent me friend requests; it’s not like I had gone hunting for them. Did they try to connect with me solely because they thought I was rooting for the same political team?
Of course, politics and opinions might serve as a common bond through which people might initially come together, but hopefully a friendship doesn’t stop with one single issue; hopefully, a friendship grows and blossoms, becoming deeper and more multi-dimensional. Hopefully, the people will develop a personal liking for each other as people and the friendship will strengthen to the point where it will actually withstand differences of opinion.
I take stock of my list of friends, on Facebook and otherwise. It includes people of all races and ethnicities, a variety of religions and age groups, the gamut of socio-economic backgrounds, geographic locations, family makeups, sexual orientations, educational levels, and the entire political spectrum.
Over the years, I’ve learned that labels (Black, Protestant, middle-class, Californian, Republican, etc) matter much less than the people behind those labels. It’s what’s inside that matters.
I’m interested in the person that would save the injured animal, stand up for someone getting picked on, or adopt a child (for the right reasons), regardless if they’re Republican or Democrat.
I love the firefighters who save cats and dogs, the people who let you in on the congested freeway, the people who hold the door open for you at the store, those who dedicate their lives to teaching because they’re passionate about a subject; it matters much less whether or not they’re rich or broke.
I have a special spot in my heart for the friend would come live with you for 3 weeks to take care of you while you recover from major surgery, or the patient who would send flowers and a “get well” card during that recovery, or the person who would cuddle a kitten, or someone who takes pride in their work and wants to make a difference in the world, big or small–you know, the people who realize that the good in the world and the improvement and evolution of society ultimately starts with ourselves–each individual person.
It doesn’t matter if that person is a trash collector, an investor, an actor, a waitress, an artist, a socialite, a teacher, or the leader of the free world.
I personally know people who were raised in the projects, people who had kids out of wedlock, and many who are recovering from various addictions. It is easy to write these people off as trash, if you don’t actually know them. The person who grew up in the projects became a doctor. The people who had kids out of wedlock started their own business. One recovering alcoholic became a successful entrepreneur and another became our office’s best employee and biggest cheerleader.
I know people whose political views are opposite my own. Regardless of how vehemently I disagree with their views, they are still wonderful people who work hard and would lay down their lives for an animal or give you the warmest comfort in your hardest time of sorrow. They’d be the ones truly praying for you while everyone else gives you lip service. They email me and send Facebook messages, telling me they love me and no, they’re not semi-obligated to do so due to any relation by blood or marriage.
I also know people whose political views are closer to my own. Some of these people are the most judgmental, holier-than-thou, unbending, and narrow-minded people I’ve ever seen. They let the minorest of differences drive a permanent wedge between us, a wedge that they alone created, not me. They are toxic. Those people have now been pruned from my life and I’m saddened and yet relieved to be rid of them.
Again, the labels and details matter less than the big picture. The fact is, I want to be friends with the person who wants a better world, a better society, a brighter tomorrow. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you they want (true) progress and advancement, to be a better person today than they were yesterday, and to live in a better place today than they did yesterday.
The only differences that create the labels (and indeed the uproar) involve how we should go about making that happen. But I personally want to be connected most closely to the person whose ideals and motives are the most genuine and thoughtful, no matter how that person thinks this would be best achieved. I’d rather be connected with the ultra-liberal who truly does desire a better world and whose heart is in the right place (no matter how misguided I might think they are), than the most sensible conservative who, deep down, couldn’t give a damn about anyone beyond him/herself.
It is truly the thought that counts.