My oldest friend in the world has suspended our friendship until some undetermined later date.
I’ve been friends with this guy since 1972. That’s fifty-one years, half a century. We grew up only a few streets away from each other. We went to junior high, high school, and college together.
As high schoolers, we worked in the kitchen at Lindenwood College. We ran each other through the dishwasher. I was vice president of the student council; he was secretary. He was editor of our high school biweekly magazine; I ran the daily newspaper. At the University of Missouri, he was president of the student body; I was his press secretary. We went to the Journalism School together.
Orthodox. Faithful. Free.
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We stayed in close touch after college. I was in his wedding. He was in mine. My wife and I are friends with his wife. We saw each other a few times a year, always joyful, loads of laughs. We also stayed in touch through phone calls and emails. He would come to New York and teach my staff the finer points of news writing, since we put out a weekly news report on pro-life issues at the UN. We even have a funny handshake that results in one of us getting punched on the shoulder. Somehow or other, we greet each other with, “Woof, sir.” In short, we have been dear friends for many years.
A few years ago, I noticed a certain frostiness. He would not answer my emails and would not pick up the phone. Eventually, he fessed up that it was Trump. Trump! Fifty years of friendship iced because of a politician? He said we might be able to be friends when Trump was gone.
But, after Biden was elected, I reached out and discovered I was still in the deepfreeze. I have reached out occasionally to see if I might be thawed out. A few weeks ago, he said by email that the political times have sapped his enthusiasm for investing in our friendship. So, no, not yet. It does seem rather cruel; try again next year. I might renew our friendship then.
He’s not the only one. Another junior high/high school/college friend emailed me last year and said I “disgusted” him because I saw Antifa as an organization rather than merely an “idea.” This estrangement was not as painful since we were only rarely in touch after college. Still, he was in the gang. We were all so close; at the University of Missouri, they called us the St. Charles Gang.
I wrote a few years ago about business friends I have lost over the years because of politics. Most of them were painful for a moment and no longer. In that piece, I mentioned my half-century friend as one of three stalwarts who did not sacrifice friendship for politics. Alas, it appears no longer. And this one hurts a lot.
I think it is more than Trump. It is the age we are passing through and certain issues that strike some people to the core. Trump is certainly one. Some folks simply cannot fathom that anyone would support such a man. Indeed, Trump supporters have had to look past certain behaviors both in the past and the present. But this enmity cannot be over policy; after all, Trump is not all that different from conservative politicians who have not resulted in my cancellation.
I think there were certain political accelerants to the freezing of friendships. Covid is one. I have been public about my Covid skepticism. I largely eschewed masks and said so in columns and on social media. I was more reticent about publicly opposing the Covid shot, but folks could figure it out. But Covid was such a visceral issue for many people. If you were skeptical of ideologie covid, you were literally a “grandma killer.”
An even greater accelerant for the ruination of friendship might be the homosexual/trans issue. This is profoundly personal for many. Similar to support for Trump, it is simply not fathomable that anyone would oppose the homosexual/trans agenda. After all, they think such folks were born that way and are unchangeable. The situation is not helped that a mutual friend of ours, also from junior high/high school/college days, has a child who has taken a turn down that blind trans alley.
I think the media narrative hasn’t helped, at least the media my friends consume. Trump never said Nazi’s were “very fine people.” That rather sums up the issue. How can anyone support a Nazi lover. But this was only one of hundreds of similar lies the media has spread about Trump. They say he’s a Putin-lover who conspired with Russians to steal the 2016 election. And why wouldn’t my friends believe these things. They trust the sources. And they certainly would not believe anyone on the other side of this now gaping national divide.
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And then came January 6th, where they are no doubt falsely convinced that Trump fomented a violent revolution against the government and the Constitution of the United States, the worst since the Civil War. And Trump also denies Biden got more votes. The rathole of contemporary politics is never ending if you let it lure you in.
Maybe my friend is right. Maybe we can’t be friends right now, maybe never. For me, though, that would be unspeakably sad. Message to my old pal: my door is always open.