Politics and Friendship…

Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni is a man of few words. He is the boyfriend of Mme. Precious Ramotswe, the title character in Alexander McCall Smith’s literary series The No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency. A car mechanic by trade, Mr. Matekoni is a simple man – wise and laconic. When asked to explain something, he often responds with “I have no more words,” a phrase I sometimes use when M and I are in the midst of a heated discussion.

Today, I’m speechless as I watch our newly inaugurated president fight to restore order to a country reeling from an assault on its capitol while addressing the need to vaccinate the entire population against a killer virus, repair the damage to our place in the international community and deal with long lines at food banks, police brutality, immigration crises and racial division. I, literally, have no more words.

After the 2016 presidential election an old friend chided me with the phrase “Elections have consequences.” I wanted to be reasonable and told him I knew that was true but hoped conservative Republicans could have found a smarter, better informed candidate. I knew the one that had been elected was going to be trouble but had no idea how much trouble.

Over the four Trump years, my friend’s politics seemed to move in lockstep with the administration’s. After the 2020 election, I reminded him that “Elections have consequences” but now his response has a harder edge. He disputes Joe Biden’s election victory. He hates Obama. He hates Hillary. He hates and fears socialism. He wants the old America… the one he grew up in.

The funny thing is, he and I grew up in exactly the same America. We both were raised in Seattle. We went to public schools. He graduated from Cleveland High. I went to Roosevelt. He went to Whitworth University in Spokane. I went to the University of Washington in Seattle. We played tennis on public courts, skied in the Cascades, both became Naval aviators, and flew commercially for Pan Am. Both families were solidly middle class.

How did our political perspectives end up so far apart? I have no words to explain it.

Is he still a friend? He is. We might not ever get together again. He lives in Carmel and I’m in Seattle, but we still email and Facebook occasionally. I like him personally but wonder where his politics came from. I don’t agree that people can’t remain friends because of political differences. After all, if George and Kellyanne Conway can stay married, surely two old pilots can maintain their friendship. We might not if we burrow in and don’t let go of our differences. We can still joke about our politics but need to keep it light. I know we could bridge our differences if we could just make a couple of powder runs together or play some tennis. We were both pretty good back in the day.

Here’s the moral vector of this story; it’s likely we will both die in the next ten years, and I don’t want any lingering resentments as that day approaches. He and I both have strong opinions about how government should work and the people we think it should serve. So did John Adams and Thomas Jefferson. they too had major differences and after a long period of not speaking to each other reconciled and resumed their friendship. They died within five hours of one another on July 4, 1826 – exactly 50 years after signing the Declaration of Independence. That’s how I’d like it to be with my old friend too. Given the current state of the nation, I think it’s best to defer to Mr. J.L.B. Matekoni… I have no more words.

Comments

  1. There’s another avenue for you and your conservative pilot friend to hang together. As flight instructors in Pensacola some of us used to go up on days when weather prevented instructional flights and have wild dog fights above the clouds (1,000 on top). It rings you out and you forget the guy in the other plane emphasizes his right wing while you like your left (mostly). .

  2. Thanks for this discussion. I like you, and probably many others, am faced with a split that has occurred between me and one of my best friends because of our individual political beliefs. We have agreed to disagree and try to stay away from political issues. Ironically, on an issue by issue basis, my friend generally agrees with me about the needs of our country as well as the lack of leadership during the last four years but she is a dedicated Republican, as is her spouse, and isn’t going to budge from what she sees as the “party line.”

    However, when we stray into a political discussion, there are some buzz words she always uses– words like socialism, unchecked immigration and taxation – and that point it is specifically focused on socialism. In general though we do not engage in an in-depth conversation about the state of the union and the reasons for it and so our friendship has added a layer of superficiality in being ourselves.

    It is such a loss but we are both dedicated to maintaining our friendship even with the weight of avoiding issues that go to the very center of our lives. It’s not easy but at this point in our lives she won’t change and I am not going to change but we cherish the history we have had together and look forward to more time in the future. The loss of this friend would leave a significant hole in my life.

  3. Well written and if I’m not mistaken you are talking about Bob Rigney’s neighbor Deryl. I really wouldn’t expect much different from someone who was chasing Bee Vogsted in the old days in SFO. I know Rigney is quite disillusioned with him as well. Keep the blogs coming Jack and “keep the faith “ as they say. Stay safe, Peter ps: we were lucky enough to complete our two shots of Moderna last week which relieves the pressure somewhat. Hope you get yours soon as well.

  4. Politicians come and go as well as democratic and republicans change hands every four years, but old friends who you have enjoyed a life together over long periods should never let political views or a party come between a good friendship as such we only have one vote every two or four years.
    If we as friends can look at some good done or the good that will be done in the fiuture and only then can we move on. All of us most likely will have a different opinion on issues. It would be nice to discuss different views without talking to a blank wall.

    I have stood at the exact sign at the Cape of Good Hope.

  5. WELL JACK WE ARE ON DIFFERENT ENDS OF THE POLITICAL SPECTRUM BUT I’VE ALWAYS CONSIDERED YOU A LONG TIME FRIEND. BUT I DIDN’T NOR I DO IHATE PELOSI, O’BAMA OR BIDEN. I DON’T KNOW NOR HAVE I MET THEM. MY ARGUMENTS ARE WITH THEIR POLITICS AS I’VE EXPRESSED TO YOU. WE ALL HAVE THAT RIGHT OR SOMETIMES I FEEL LIKE I USED TO. ALSO PETER BENNETT DOESN’T KNOW ME SO I TAKE EXCEPTION WITH HIS COMMENTS. OBVIOUSLY HIS POLITICAL ARE DIFFERENT THAN MINE SO I SHOULD EXPECT HIS COMMENTS.; PRETTY SNARKEY.

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