How Trumpism Corrupted One of My Closest Friendships
No matter how much I try to evade, political rhetoric seeps into every conversation
My friend was a force of sanity in this crazy world. But now, it seems like she picks a fight every time we talk.
The reason? The lead-up and aftermath of the 2020 presidential election. If you’re a liberal American with Donald Trump-loving friends, you may have noticed this inevitable shift since Biden defeated him back in November. Even when you deliberately avoid talking about politics, it worms its way into every conversation.
To My Facebook Friends Who Voted for Donald Trump
It’s too late to preach to us about peace, love, and understanding
Since college, my friend has identified as an Independent, but I’m pretty sure she voted for Trump twice. She’s never admitted it, but she drops enough clues for me to do the math.
We’ve been friends for most of my life, but we never really talked about politics until the end of 2016, in a taxi on the other side of the world. A cab driver in Tasmania asked us what we thought about Trump, and I unloaded.
After I finished, my friend offered one of those “both sides” comments that always gives away political inclination. It’s a typical Republican deflection that echoes (and in her case, predicted) Trump’s infamous “both sides” comments after the deadly August 2017 Unite the Right rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Afterward, I promised myself never to talk politics with her again. I knew our friendship — and my sanity — depended on it.
I’ve kept my vow, but ever since the 2020 presidential election, she’s been dropping hints of her Trump support like breadcrumbs. The first ones fell after Joe Biden was declared the next U.S. president.
After months of barely acknowledging the global Covid-19 pandemic or the crumbling state of the Union, she told me over the phone that she was looking into buying property abroad — just in case things in the U.S. went deep south.
I thought to myself: You mean, things have been great up to now? But I didn’t engage, instead asking where she considered buying. Her answer? Mexico, a country whose citizens, Trump decreed, shouldn’t be allowed into the U.S. Oh, the irony and entitlement.
The wonderful, compassionate, complicated friend I’ve known for more than half my life has become basic and tone-deaf. Her moral compass has been hijacked by Trumpist conservatism.
In recent weeks, she’s ramped up her passive-aggressive politicizing. After my husband and I both received our first doses of the Pfizer Covid-19 vaccine, she sent me a bunch of links from obscure websites to support her theory that we were risking our lives. According to her, all of her friends who got the first shot decided against the second one. The implication was that we should be smart and do the same. (It’s funny how anti-vaxxers always seem to know “so many people” who’ve fallen violently ill after getting vaccinated, while I don’t know anyone who has.)
She insisted she wasn’t trying to scare me, but she believed the vaccine had already killed rap legend DMX and baseball icon Hank Aaron. She said she loved me, and after doing her due “research” — likely Googling “Is the Covid-19 vaccine dangerous?” and reading only pieces by “experts” who say it is — she wanted to be sure I was fully informed.
I didn’t remind her that I’m a journalist capable of making informed decisions without the benefit of her “research.” I did point out, however, that despite the timing of DMX’s and Hank Aaron’s deaths, the vaccine was not a confirmed cause. The vaccine protects us from dying from Covid-19; it doesn’t make us immortal. People will still get sick and die from the same things people have been dying from since the beginning of humanity.
She ignored my reasoning and sent an article that offered a theory that the vaccine was part of a sinister plot to depopulate the world. I only skimmed it, but it didn’t seem to reveal who came up with the scheme or why they are trying to create a new power generation made up mainly of conspiracy theorists who contradict the advice of esteemed doctors and scientists around the world. Would I want to be left behind with the lot of them?
I didn’t challenge her any further. Being the petty person I can be, though, I seized the opportunity to let her know where I stood a couple of weeks later. I texted her after my second shot. She texted that she had just come back from picking up her new gun.
I told her she’d have to teach me how to shoot it the next time I see her.
We didn’t speak again until I called on her birthday; her tone was hardly celebratory. She was annoyed that local businesses where she lives in Georgia still require masks and that people still wear them, even when they’re outside. I’ve never known her to object to wearing white after Labor Day, but suddenly, what strangers wear on their faces has become her problem. In her words, those “sheep” were running and ruining her life.
I agreed that wearing a mask is frustrating — I have difficulty wearing one while working out in the gym. I decided not to add that it was a relatively minor inconvenience I was willing to make to keep myself and others safe. I didn’t want to make my side of the conversation political and drag out what had already become an unpleasant call.
She moved on to her plan to relocate to Florida. She wants to live among like-minded people in a state where the governor (whom she “loves” and thinks is a “badass” for being anti-vaccine passports and anti-critical race theory) recently signed laws meant to discourage Black people from protesting and voting.
Okay. Bait, not accepted.
Next, she went on a tirade about how the government is trying to force people to get vaccinated using vaccine passports. They haven’t been properly tested, she complained, once again reminding me that they haven’t yet been fully approved by the FDA, an organization run by the same government that’s allegedly trying to kill us. Her take: People shouldn’t be forced to get a vaccine that hasn’t been rigorously tested for the usual 10 years.
I didn’t point out that more than 500,000 Americans have already died from Covid-19 complications, so time is not on our side. I didn’t point out that desperate times call for desperate measures. I didn’t remind her that most of the global medical community supports vaccination or that American citizens have never been as “free” as some people (Republicans) like to think we are.
When she started going off on the local government for keeping schools closed, I didn’t tell her they are just trying to keep kids safe, not hurt her personally, or control the world. I didn’t advise her to set aside her resentment and try to be happy, at least for her birthday. I knew she would’ve just dismissed everything I said anyway.
Two days later, she called me on my birthday and, predictably, launched into her usual conservative spiel, this time with more vigor than ever before. When she said she loves Florida’s racist governor, in part, because of his opposition to critical race theory, I firmly shut her down. I told her I had no interest in discussing politics with her on my birthday, even under the guise of talking about something else (why she’s moving to Florida).
We ended the conversation on good terms, but I can no longer ignore the Marjorie Taylor Greene-ness of it all. The wonderful, compassionate, complicated friend I’ve known for more than half my life has become basic and tone-deaf. Her moral compass has been hijacked by Trumpist conservatism.
I guess this is a requiem for a friendship. I can pretend we aren’t talking about politics when we clearly are. I can pretend I’m not rolling my eyes when she talks about the Southern states like they’re America’s promised land. But when someone who claims to love me endorses the denial of the systemic racism I’ve been up against my entire life, it’s time for this great pretender to exit quietly.
I know liberals who have managed to keep Trumpists in their life. For me, it was an ambitious experiment that failed. Unlike Trump and his flock, I know how to admit I’ve lost and move on.