Friendship over politics

Healing broken relationships frayed by division

Liam Smith, Staff Writer

Illustration by Gabrialla Cockerell

In the United States, the political climate has never been more divisive. Never since the Civil War have Americans been more politically separated. We are separated by more than just political left versus political right. We are divided by each other on the basis of race, gender, geographical location, and culture.

This division has seeped into the foundation of our relationships. Seemingly more and more, people across the political divide must disassociate with people they disagree with. This is true in all aspects of life including the workplace, social scenes, and the classroom. So often, the division takes precedence over connecting with real people in a world full of differences and diversities.
This is certainly true on campus at Seattle Pacific University. Everywhere on campus, there seems to be polarization and division.

Across campus, students tend to filter friend groups naturally by political belief. In the different interviews conducted, all students admitted to their closest friends being of the same political ideology as they are. While this is not a surprise, it is significant. When students are developing life skills, trades, understandings, and lifelong friendships, it matters what people students surround themselves with.

If we as a student body only associate with people, we agree then there is no way to accurately learn the views of another. Friendship and support in relationships can and should take precedence over any political belief.

This is true for senior Information Systems major Sean Hussey. According to Hussey “I have a friend group that I often play sports with that highly disagree with who I voted for and my political opinions. We debated for a while, but it never separated us from playing sports together and remaining friends.”
Students like Hussey show that political differences can be faced just like anything else that differentiates one person from another. As long as both people know that our differences can be held separately from their relationship to each other—and maybe they can even be learned from—then, a relationship does not have to rise and fall with the division.

This, however, is not for everyone. Analee Erikson, a senior majoring in economics, noted that when her best friend started dating someone who had differing political beliefs she felt as though she had to speak up. “I was genuinely upset with her for several days afterward and we stopped talking. I felt like she was compromising on her values and moral views to start this relationship.” Erikson stated that after a few days she was able to talk to her best friend and now their friendship is just as strong as it was.

Hussey and Erikson’s interviews showcase two different ways that politics in friendships come up. In Hussey’s situation, the friend group was able to toss belief aside for the sake of the friendship as a whole. In Erikson’s case, she and her friend were able to come together and have a civil conversation to resolve differences and gain more understanding. These situations prove that political differences can be resolved in separate ways and still come to the same conclusions.

Both of these anecdotes speak to larger questions about the role of politics in our friendships. While each person is different there is no doubt that politics plays a role in how we see other people. As the country has become more polarized and divided, our friend groups grow increasingly more tribalistic. This presents very clear dangers in our ability to adequately understand issues and perspectives in public life.

It does not have to be this way. Unity and civility are a choice. When choosing our friends and who we associate with we can choose to filter our friends through our own political lens or we can choose to have friends who challenge us to think beyond the realm of our own beliefs.