Original Email Sent:

I'm sure you're surprised to hear from me (assuming you actually opened this email to read it). I'm not writing to reconcile nor am I writing to insult you or be confrontational. I have a proposition for you, so to speak, and was wondering if you'd be willing to do something  with me through email. What I'm hoping is that although we are not currently friends that our past history will grant us some decency toward each other that might make this a jointly useful undertaking.

 

I would assume we can agree on at least one thing: our country is scarily divided and divisive right now and many people just don’t understand or listen to the opposing side (and that goes for both sides of the aisle as a whole and each individual issue). My desire is to better understand the opposing side, while simultaneously presenting my own views for consideration by that side. It's a hard thing to do though these days when we are all pretty much surrounded by bubbles of like-minded people. I think it's much more difficult to reach out to strangers, especially those who see you as the enemy, than it is to reach out to known people. Even those who you no longer have a relationship with.

 

So, here's what I'm proposing. An ongoing exchange of emails between us in which one of us brings up an issue and we endeavor to see and understand the other side. I'd like there to also be a component of open-mindedness to the possibility of being convinced of a different opinion or stance, but that is not the main focus. The main focus is understanding.

 

Now, saying all that, I would like for this to be something that is civil and also somewhat structured (which I think can help with the civility). I definitely wouldn't want it to be something that simply turns to insults and degradation. The goal is understanding and finding common ground, not personal attacks. So here are my initial ideas/guidelines, which you could of course have input on if you want to participate in this:

 

 

If you want to do this, you may certainly present any changes or additions you'd like in your reply so we can consider the best, most agreeable way to move forward.

 

I must say I'm very hopeful that you will want to do this with me. I know that it was politics that was the ultimate crux in our friendship and perhaps that will prevent you from wanting to do this. But I encourage you to think about if maybe that's the best reason to do it. If a friendship of over 30 years cannot survive in today's political climate that should be an indication to everyone on both sides that we need to fix something. Our own tiny personal experiment may not bring about world-wide change, but at least for me I'm very curious to see if it's even possible these days for there to still be political discourse among people or groups with very different stances on issues. It's not about rekindling a friendship (if that happened down the road, it would be a pleasant side-effect), it's about using our downfall as a starting point to something different.

 

I know this would take some time and effort but I hope that will not stop you from wanting to be part of it. I will accept whatever your decision and hope that if you decline you might at least provide an explanation for why. Even that would be helpful and informative to me.

 

Thanks for (hopefully) reading to the end. I look forward to hearing back from you.

Response:

Let me start with a quote:

"Love isn't a state of perfect caring. It is an active noun like struggle. To love someone is to strive to accept that person exactly the way he or she is, right here and now." Fred Rogers

Powerful words indeed!  

I have very strong doubts about the sincerity of your purpose.  It looks as if you cut and pasted most of this information from a website. My first instinct after reading this is that you are trying to change my mind, which I can assure, would never happen.  Although you state that this wouldn't turn into arguing, I truly don't see that happening given your nature.  Furthermore, I have no desire to discuss politics or religion with the very person who ditched me because of a politician and has criticized my beliefs.  

If you want to know these things, surely you can investigate for yourself.

Reply:

Well I am sorry to hear that. I can assure you though that none of that was cut and pasted. The idea came to me and I spent a great deal of time writing the email and thinking through the process. I've never plagiarized anything before and didn't this time either.

I can also assure you that the intention of thought was not to change your mind but to understand the thoughts, reasoning, feelings behind certain views, and provide the same to you. We both have pretty strong views and wills and I didn't expect much "change" from such interactions. But it's also informative to hear from you that you would definitely never change your mind, so there was still something learned here.

 As for arguing, the dictionary defines it as "a coherent series of reasons, statements, or facts intended to support or establish a point of view". I actually never used the term "argue" in my original email but it is basically the exact thing I was proposing. What I wanted, and was definitely set to do, was avoid the devolvement of argument into contentious bickering and personal attacks. I simply wanted to keep it as academic as possible.

Nowhere did I mention religion or plan to talk about it. For me that topic has nothing to offer toward my goal of being able to at least sympathize or understand opposing political/social views. I did mention the Bible because I thought it might be a source for the reasoning behind certain beliefs you have on topics of discussion that are political in nature.

One last thing I just want to clarify. I didn't "ditch" you over a politician. I thought about, internally debated, and in many ways agonized over whether to confront you or not. It was something that was genuinely tearing me up inside and I simply couldn't live like that any longer. So I think it's not accurate to categorize it as ditching, as if it was spur of the moment, heartless, and consequence-free for me; it was not. And again just to clarify, this wasn't about a "politician", this was about something so much deeper than that and about which I couldn't in good conscience accept in those people I call friends.

Yes, I can seek out other ways to investigate how opposing views are formed, but I was hoping to be able to do it on a more personal and fluid level. But, I will continue to try to understand those things that baffle me and hope our country will some day be less divided.

I appreciate your response despite your declination to participate. I'm sorry to hear that you don't trust my intentions or my resolve to be civil. If you change your mind and want to try this, I'll still be open to it.

Response:

If you really wanted to understand my beliefs and political views, you should have inquired before saying you simply couldn’t be friends with someone who supported Trump.

Reply:

You are right, that would have been a better time to start that conversation. In that moment I felt stuck and emotional. You had made it very clear that you did not want to discuss politics with me, yet I was still at a crossroads. After all that had been happening in the news I eventually just knew that a friendship between myself and someone that supported Trump (and what I believe he stands for) just wasn't going to be compatible. For me it was so much more than on the surface politics, it was about who people are, what they believe in, and what they stand for at their core. The differences in people at such a basic & raw level seemed (and still do) an insurmountable obstacle to real and profound friendship. That's not to say that two people so opposite cannot have basic civil interactions, but a deep connected friendship, not so much. And that's where I was coming from when that happened,

I'm not in a different place now in terms of who I feel I can connect with deeply or intimately. But I am in a place of great distress, and part of how I'm trying to deal with that distress is to feel like I am part of something good, something productive, and working towards solutions. And I think so much of what has happened in our country (indeed even around the world) is people not listening to or hearing each other, an abundance of misinformation, the atmosphere becoming adversarial instead of cooperative, and the language we use about and towards those who disagree with us has become toxic and personal instead of constructive and neutral. My reaching out to you in this way wasn't about rekindling friendship nor was it about fighting or trying to change your mind. It was simply a thought experiment about having discourse with those you disagree with, trying to figure out why people think, believe, and feel the way they do, and just seeing if there were any areas of common ground that could be agreed upon.

I'm sorry that it didn't happen differently in the first place. I struggled with how to bring things up with you before, changed my mind about 100 different times, wrote probably 3 versions of that original text, and waffled about doing it at all for some time. I cannot change how it did happen, but I hope you can at least understand and appreciate that I didn't take it lightly or do it hastily and if I fucked up it wasn't because I was flippant about it, it's simply human fallibility.

Again, I'm sorry you don't want to try this but I appreciate you having heard me out anyway. And if you change your mind, lmk.