I have a friend who started sending me articles from conservative publications re: “woke” and the “cancel culture.” Previously his overarching interests in life were money, golf, travel, skiing, wine and fine dining. I’m not averse to any of these, though, unlike his, my life does not revolve around them. Among them the only one in which I find little redeeming value is golf. I tried it once, and, at age 20, retired at the pinnacle of this so-called sport after scoring a hole-in-one. After that, I saw no point in continuing to pursue it when I could have much more fun watching paint dry. Generally, I’ve no wish to demean his passions. Mine simply tend to run in different directions —of which loyal readers are aware.
We’ve maintained a friendship for more decades than I care to count, because he’s charming, socially adept, a good conversationalist and has achieved a state of expertise on the finer things in life that help enhance the time we spend together. We have always agreed to disagree and to respect each other despite our many, mostly political, differences.
More like family than friends, we based our relationship on the long term bond between us that has transcended politics. We’ve had some pretty intense conversations, but always came back to the things we share in common. Even when I’m sure he’s dead wrong, at least he’s able to verbalize his positions in an intelligent and non-confrontational way. Sometimes he makes good points. Though they rarely sway my points of view, they have helped me to understand his better.
Unlike “Percy,” whose over the top religiosity and blind allegiance to Trump drove me to dump him (well sort of dump him since we had not seen each other in the flesh since high school), this friend is one I want to keep. While Percy’s reactionary religiosity and Trumpublican loyalty make me sick, my buddy’s conservatism is merely disappointing.
Lately though, I feel the relationship is starting to unravel. Like the party he supports, he has been sucked into culture war issues. Like so many Republicans, he appears to have become obsessed with them.
When I first began to receive copies of articles decrying woke and cancel culture, my reaction to the propaganda was, how could anyone find the recent upsurge of empathy toward the plight of non-Whites and the underprivileged surprising? Or upsetting? It’s about time, don’t you think? And cancel culture? To hear him complain about it and to read the articles he’s sent, you’d thinks it’s limited to liberals trying to stifle conservative points of view. I’m biased, of course, but the way I see it, the liberals mostly want to stifle lies and hatred, while conservatives are at war with the truth.
If anyone should be “canceled” who should be? Is it really wrong to strive to interfere with the free expression of fascistic White nationalist doctrine that spews prejudice or to disenfranchise those who endorse the Big Lie and similarly false, dangerous, anti-democratic ideas?
In the past, our disagreements never made me question the value or durability of our relationship, but his new pre-occupation with Trumped up cultural issues made me wonder whether our long shared history will be enough to sustain our friendship.
In an effort to reset things, I expressed my concern that his current obsession was an example of how the Republicans use such issues to rile people up and to distract them from other, vital, matters they prefer to ignore or to distort. I suggested he’s too smart to let himself be ensnared in the web of untruths they spin in their quest for raw power and their wish to establish oligarchy in the place of democracy. I reminded him that the real challenges that face us both are such things as climate change, social and economic injustice and the rapid degradation of our democratic system.
The response was deafening silence.
I hope I’m wrong, but I’m concerned that this long and valued relationship may become another victim of the “cancel” mentality, the “my way or the highway” attitude that has taken over and is destroying the spirit of this land.
As the civil war turned brother against brother, the culture war is turning friend against friend. Among the many casualties of this war, this may be the most tragic of all.