I generally enjoy having political discussions with my friends, or at least those who enjoy them as well. Those of my readers who are also friends on Facebook know this.
But with that said, I've come the realization in the last year or so that there are some friends with whom I cannot have these types of discussions because both of us are so set in our opinions (which, naturally, in this situation, are polar opposites) that there would be no persuading either party of anything, and we would both most likely leave the discussion more frustrated than anything else. And that's fine, and I figured that we would skip those discussions and move on, remaining friends.
Sadly, life is not so straightforward.
I have gone on to learn in the last few months that not only are there some people with whom I should not have political discussions, there are also people whose disregard for the rules of arguing fairly can and do destroy friendships. This has happened to me.
I have (yes, still present tense, as of this writing) a Facebook friend, who, for the purposes of maintaining this person's identity, I shall call "Friend". (Catchy name, I know, but it does manage to hide not only Friend's name but Friend's gender...you will all be glad to know that Friend is not gender-neutral. It also reminds me of a favorite book of mine as a child. 100 bonus points to the person who catches the reference.) I have known Friend for quite a while, and Friend and I not only both grew up in the same but also both remain in that same denomination, as far as I know.
Very soon after I friended Friend (or vice-versa, I don't remember), I noticed that Friend had political opinions different from my own. The first inkling of what was to come was when I posted a link to an entry entitled "Fears of a Straw Man". I don't know whether Friend realized that I was the author when Friend commented on the link; I suppose it doesn't matter at this point. Either way, what Friend wrote was insulting to me, with flowery, yet cutting, phrases such as "It sounds like Mr. Snowed doesn't have a solid grip on the reality of party politics...[h]e projects embarrasingly [sic]...Mr. Snowed simply doesn't read and think well." If I had known then what I know now, I would not have engaged Friend any further.
The rest of Friend's comments had to do with some of the subjects of the post in question (namely, Rush Limbaugh, , and Sarah Palin); these statements betrayed that Friend approached my post with so rigid a set of presuppositions that nothing I wrote would have convinced Friend of anything. To wit: "Limbaugh is a patently wicked man, Brooks is a consistently pragmatic party voice, and Palin is a ridiculously embarrassing pol for her ignorance, incuriosity, and toothless attempts at self-justification..."
As I said earlier, if I had only known...
Friend's later comments on similar comments displayed the same rigidity, along with what came across as an elitist attitude, particularly about Sarah Palin (who, as my regular readers know, has a lot of similar opinions to my own), with statements such as "Palin is an illiterate, incurious buffoon," or "Palin does not think seriously and deeply about things. If she did, it would show in her speech and writing. The depth of her incoherence is shocking, and I've seen nothing remotely like it in national U.S. politics."
If that weren't enough, Friend took it one step further: "We do scratch our heads at why you advocate such ignorance in high office. It's not such a great (if lazy) leap to 'You, too, are stupid.'"
Obviously, my assumption that a civil discussion was possible with Friend about politics was incredibly off-target. And it got worse before it got better. We'll delve deeper into the messier parts later.