I realized something important today. There is a friend of mine who is liberal, but I always chalked up as a sort of moderate lefty. We could talk about politics, and disagree on most everything, but drink beers and bullshit anyway. No rancor. We both acknowledged that we were trying to solve the same problems in different ways. Mostly, I could understand him, and he could understand me.
But now, I feel like I can’t reach him anymore. He’s drifted off too far. Oh, he mouths the same words as before. But they are empty. Like he doesn’t really believe them anymore. And I’ve come to realize it is the same for me.
We don’t live in the same country, the same culture. I like him still, but he is a foreigner to me, now. I may as well be talking to someone from Norway or France. His issues aren’t my issues, his world isn’t my world. We’ve nothing left in common. When I talk to him, it’s just going through the motions, now. I see on his wall how much he hates Trump and thinks his supporters are racists and such. He won’t say as much to me, of course, but… it’s there. And we both know that.
It is difficult to explain, but for me this is a major turning point. I used to be able to reach the other side. Oh, it was rare that I would change their minds. But they would listen, and nod, and understand. We could communicate. Make sense to one another.
And we can’t anymore. It’s not even the same language. I hear him talk about microaggressions, and the latest thing some lefty outlet like HuffPo is going on about. Maybe it’s genderqueer rights, or how some industry needs to be nationalized because of slavery. Even the words don’t have the same definition. When he says “justice” he means something entirely different. I don’t know what, exactly. I’ve only a vague understanding of what he means, but it is not what I mean when I use the word. Repeat for many terms, from “equal” to “fairness,” and even to “colonizing.”
We were born in the same country, but I suspect we will not die in the same country. They have different stories, different heroes, different words, different beliefs, and an entirely different culture. I came to realize that he was speaking what I regarded (politely) as gibberish. Utter nonsense. But, somehow, it made sense to him.
This isn’t about disagreements anymore. It’s something much bigger. It’s about the American people separating into its component parts, like taking the whole thing to the scrapyard to be torn apart. People are fracturing along ethnic, religious, and political lines. We aren’t one nation, under God.
But like my friend and I, sometimes we drink a beer together and pretend we are, just vaguely shouting gibberish at one another from the distance. Perhaps for reasons of nostalgia, or maybe just out of some kind of cultural inertia that will soon run out of steam.
Whatever the reason, I am not optimistic about our future as one country, one people.