Archived Opinion

The pendulum will swing — it has to

The pendulum will swing — it has to

Would you turn your back on a long and meaningful friendship because of widening political differences? I won’t do it, and I don’t understand people who would. 

The gun control debate is the perfect example. It’s as polarizing and divisive issue as there is, especially after what happened two weeks ago at a high school in Parkland, Florida. 

Those on the left want to blame the Neanderthals on the right, the right wants to blame the panty-waisted snowflakes on the left, others want to blame the power-mongers running the NRA and their sycophants in Congress, still others pin the problem squarely on the dummies at the FBI or the elected idiots who have castrated the nation’s mental health system.

Cruising around the internet reading comments from those who come down on different sides of this issue, you come across the hate and name-calling. The arguments eventually descend to nasty criticisms of someone’s intelligence, their masculinity, or their whatever. The issue become secondary to the tone of the criticism and who can make the most condescending, snarkiest comment.

Being “friends” on Facebook has cheapened the meaning of that word because, in my opinion, friends should not treat friends the way some treat each other on social media.

One of my closest friends and I always seem to argue politics, and we have fundamental differences on many issues. It gets hot sometimes. But, I won’t let those philosophical differences get between all the years our families have known each other, the good times we’ve had, the pleasure that I’ve had in watching his children grow up and the friendships they have with my own kids, the solace our friendship has provided each other as we’ve navigated life’s hard times.

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We feel differently about who should occupy the Oval Office and who should run the state. In some ways I guess these friendships are a reflection of the many polls that show political differences have widened dramatically in the last 20 years over issues like immigration, the role of government, race, national security, the environment, gun control, and other areas. The center is much narrower.

Tribalism — which some say is natural — is in part to blame for these divisions. We tend to group with people who think like we do. And, in order not to alienate those friends and social acquaintances, we adopt their views rather than argue a point that might upset those in the group we hang with.

Money and capitalism are also factors in this devolution into groups defined by what divides rather than what unites. Radio and television make millions by paying commentators who speak to a small percentage of the population and don’t make any attempt at objectivity. Political action committees attract millions of dollars in contributions to run commercials and influence politicians in their attempt divide rather than find areas of agreement. It’s an industry that grows stronger every day.

I have no idea what the future holds, but as my friends and I discuss — and sometimes argue — about politics, perhaps I should feel lucky that maybe, just maybe, we are bucking the trend. We are still friends and still disagreeing, not giving up our personal beliefs or principles, searching for common ground instead of building walls. 

Call me a naive idealist, but politics moves in cycles. This current era will one day give way to a more thoughtful, more moderate tone where compromises are seen as success rather than capitulation. To get there, we’ll need political leaders much different that those we are getting today, but the pendulum will swing — it has to.

(Scott McLeod can be reached at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.)

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