To My Friends on the Left

To my friends on the Left,

Do you remember the days before Donald Trump? The year was roughly any year before the 2016 Presidential Election, before every conversation was political, divisive, exclusionary, accusatory, hateful, demeaning, aggressive. It was a time long past, when the most pressing thing you wondered about a stranger was not who s/he voted for in the last election. It was a time when it was OK to not be a member of a political party, because it was not at the core of your identity.

To me, it was a time when we laughed and drank wine and spent our time bonding over daily life, and shared experiences, travel, family, dogs, hobbies, movies… anything but politics. Political views sometimes arose, but they were shared with no judgment. When someone disagreed with you, the conversation would carry on until you reached the point at which a fundamental belief diverged, and you would say ah-ha! That is where we differ. We were all people, after all. It was a period of time when it was harder to be extreme, because there were so few extreme people, and we all thought they were crazy (though perhaps for different reasons).

Those were good times for me. Maybe politics have always been this way and I have just been blind, or mostly unaffected, but if you were me now, you would watch as your friends spent their time without you. You are no longer invited, because you do not find it reasonable to believe every accusation ever rendered. Because you do not shout ‘down with the patriarchy’ or say things like ‘men are pigs’ or ‘I believe her,’ or ‘the evil 1%’ or call for ‘free’ anything, you are not a part of anything anymore.

You may indeed believe her, but you know that justice is not about what people believe: it is at the end of a path that includes proof. You may agree there is a disparity between the way the world treats men and women, as you have been on the losing end countless times. You may have tremendous empathy for the poor, the uneducated, the underprivileged. You may even have been those things at one point in your life: but your friends now speak about you as ‘privileged,’ dismissing any experience prior to present. You find that you fit into these hated demographic groups: wealthy. Selfish. White privilege. You realized that, amid the #MeToo movement, despite being a victim of multiple violent sexual assaults in your own life, you were somehow standing on the other side of many of your close friends, because you chose rationality and thought over diving head first into the echo chamber… and while you’ve had your own experiences with a litany of bad men, you felt it was too severe and unreasonable to qualify all men as shit, or to treat any man in a combative way based on how other members of that demographic group have acted.

Imagine that your daily life now is watching your former friends converge without you, because in the past handful of years, your lack of ranting for Likes on the internet has deprived you of value as a human being. You realize over months and years that you are part of the hated center, the least loud and thus the most marginalized group of people, because the extremes have become so magnetically loud that they have swept up virtually everyone between. The Libertarian party you lean the most toward has become demonized as an alleged invention of the Koch Brothers. You realize that today, the price you pay for valuing reason and truth over blind agreement for the sake of community is that you are very often standing aside a shouting mass of former friends, fingers in your ears. You learn another unfortunate lesson: that angry irrational yelling does actually get you somewhere, that the very aggression and violence you’ve committed yourself against has been fruitful, and damaging, on an unprecedented level.

And, despite trying to maintain your friendships, you are dismissed, Unfollowed, ignored.  You wake up daily and feel you are one of the few non-card carrying members of a cult. That is my life in the days of Donald Trump. I did not vote for him, but I mean just as little to you as if I had, and I can’t remember a time in my life something like that was so fundamental to my worth. I miss you guys, and the fun we had, even if today instead of being me I am to you an embodiment of privilege, wealth, selfishness, and betrayal to my gender.

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