A Difference of Opinion in Politics.
“I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.” – Thomas Jefferson to William Hamilton, April 22, 1800
I don’t like this quote. It’s well-meaning, and in a friendlier, more reasonable world it would be applicable. But in today’s politics, and what is being put to vote and debate, I don’t believe this quote holds true.
But in a more reasonable world, it would. A recent example here in Massachusetts was a ballot question about how the state should fund and staff nurses in hospitals. This was a hotly debated issue, if for no other reason than both sides seemed to have reasonable arguments, and pros and cons to getting their way. No one (that I knew, anyway) was getting into heated arguments or screaming matches over this. Many people I knew offered advice from experience or news articles, and many who were undecided came seeking counsel on how to vote on the issue. It became one of the most talked-about ballot questions in our state election, and no friendships (that I know of) were destroyed over it.
That is not the world we live in, sadly. That was only one question in one mostly progressive state. On that same ballot was a question to keep or remove discrimination protections for trans people. The safety and happiness of many trans people I know and love were at stake. I voted to keep it, and I would have readily and happily cut off all communication with anyone I know who voted to remove it.
A “difference of political opinion” isn’t some minor disagreement. It could mean you don’t believe that gay people should have the right to marry, or that trans people are invalid, or that immigrant children belong in cages, or anything else so monstrous and hateful that it sickens me to even write about it. A “difference of political opinion” isn’t just about what gets funding, it’s about acceptance and compassion, and if you don’t have either in your heart then you have no place in my life.
Maybe I’m being extreme. Maybe I’ve drawn a line in the sand that doesn’t need to be there. Maybe I’ve become affected by the confrontational rhetoric of modern political debate. Maybe that’s all true. But maybe I’ve also considered the future…
I have no idea what my son’s sexual orientation is going to be, or even his gender identity. He’s only going to be four years old tomorrow(!) so I have a few years before this comes up. But let’s say my son isn’t a straight man like his dad. Maybe my son is gay. Maybe my son will come to realize he’s female. It doesn’t matter to me. I will love him unconditionally no matter what. But if someone in my life, friend or family, says that he doesn’t deserve equal rights or protections because of who he is, then you can be damn sure I wouldn’t dismiss that sort of statement with a carefree shrug. I would dismiss that person from my life.
I would love love LOVE to live in a world where Thomas Jefferson’s 200-year-old statement holds some truth, but sadly it’s just out-of-date.