The ZMan makes an interesting observation related to socialising and politics:
In my youth, it was possible to have cordial and even friendly relations with people in the Progressive cult. I spent many hours debating my lefty friends over drinks, about the defects of various central planning schemes.
Often, one side or the other would get mad, but it was rarely personal. People get hot in political debates, mostly because we are social animals. Conflict with people inside our group vexes us. It makes us uncomfortable. That was the thing. Liberals and non-liberals could operate in the same peer group.
That changed instantly with the 2000 election. All of my lefty friends and acquaintances went insane overnight. They hated Bush with the intensity of a fanatic. The wars made it impossible to have a discussion with the Left, outside of things like the weather. Granted, many of us were naive about the lunacy of the neocons and what they were planning, but the Left’s opposition was never more than shrieking madness.
Something I have noticed is how many people these days subject their friends and even family to political tests, and this is true for both the left and right. Part of the reason why politics is so divisive now is because people use it as the basis for pretty much everything, including who to be friends with. We’ve somehow managed to stumble into a sort of totalitarian society whereby absolutely everything is political and the political comes before everything else.
When I was in Australia I met a chap through a friend who was an avowed communist. I became friends with him on Facebook and every now and then he posts something related to some glorious revolution or other. But here’s the thing: he’s a decent guy, and good father, and does a good job or raising his family. He is sociable, responsible, and likes making things out of wood and going camping. He’s the sort of guy you’d want as a neighbour. If I were to disown him because of his political opinions, it would make me a bit of an arse, frankly. Yes, I know that, taken to the extreme, his political preferences would result in mass murder and Gulags but that’s not happening right now and it’s not likely to. He doesn’t see his views as leading to that any more than a capitalist believes his views will inevitably result in slavery. We’re not in any danger of reaching either extreme, so why pretend we are? For the sake of good social relations, it’s better to just ignore his political opinions and get along with the guy.
I have another friend here in Paris who is decidedly left wing and we bicker over politics quite often. I even tease him by calling him a communist. But again, he’s a splendid father, runs a fine household, and isn’t calling for anything which could remotely be considered extreme. And politics aside, we have a lot in common. I think he’s mistaken in some areas, in others he has a point, but what it mainly comes down to is a difference of opinion. Just as two people watching the same film will reach different conclusions as to its merit, two people looking at a social or political problem will differ on how it should best be solved. There’s no point in taking it any further than gentle bickering or the occasional robust exchange, because it’s simply not worth it. I’d rather judge the guy by his character – how he treats me, his family, and his general behaviour – than his politics. If he were out on the streets campaigning for a policy which would seriously harm me or anyone else, or was in a position of power where he could enact such a policy, then it might be different. But while he’s just a regular guy shooting the shit, it really doesn’t matter.
I’ve found it helps to try to find common ground, such as agreeing on the problem and differing only on the solution. If you really don’t agree with what someone is saying, often gentle mockery works better than argument or evangelism. But somehow western society has got to the point where people can’t stand to be around those with a different political outlook, and it’s pathetic. Politics shouldn’t be that important when choosing friends, whereas character should. And tempting though it is to say one defines the other, it’s simply not true. Dingbat lefties can make good friends and free-market libertarians can be absolute dicks. It comes down to the individual, not their political tribe. It’s time people remembered that.