*Names have been changed for privacy protection. Safe social distancing and isolation were enforced.*
I would like to preface: I am open to hearing where other people stand politically. No two people were raised the same. Everyone is allowed to have different reasons for what and why they believe certain ideologies. Yet that doesn’t mean I have to agree with them, nor ignore my moral compass for their sake. Being raised to never discuss politics with friends or family felt very naïve. It was an excuse to not be confrontational with different opinions. With the upcoming presidential election being matched with a social-justice revolution, political conversations have become less taboo. Moreover, they’re becoming a way to evaluate friends and family relationships. College campuses around the country are the perfect breeding ground for new relationships to be conceived and ideas to be shared. But with the younger generation expected to swing the election, is it wrong to not want to be friends with the other side?
My first week spent at VCU was life-changing. I transferred from a school in the midwest. Having been raised in Northern Virginia, I felt completely out of place and isolated. I was excited to attend a school like VCU, especially now, where it seemed everyone shared my political and moral standings. I assumed making friends would be a breeze.
I had met Hannah on Facebook before the year started. We got along well, like the same music and both enjoy the outdoors. I had a few friends from high school who had already been at VCU for two years. Joy, Taylor and Meadow all lived together, while Olive, Leah and I lived nearby. We could all agree that having Hannah over was fun, and she felt like one of the girls immediately. Our friendship grew, and we enjoyed being around her.
Joy’s house was the perfect place to unwind and get some liquid courage, as we call it, into our systems. As the night went on, we were substantially impaired, talking about life, death and everything in between. Hannah, usually quite soft-spoken, happily chimed in, “This has been an amazing night. I’m so thankful you guys are okay with me being a conservative.” All the laughs of the circle came to a quiet halt. The rest of us exchanged looks, unsure of what to say next. Taylor asked who she’d vote for in November. “I don’t consider myself a Republican, but I’m voting Trump over Biden.” Conservative was already a lot to swallow, but that was the nail in the coffin. For a moment, it was silence. The conversation followed with intense debate and presenting cases. The argument for each side came down to one principle above all; an individual’s basic human rights. From what she described to us that night, and ultimately the next morning, I knew we would never see eye-to-eye.
It was not just the statement that she is conservative. I do think it is important to be surrounded and exposed to different minds while continuing to be educated on pressing matters. It was the ground she stood on, so completely against what I believed, that made me not want her closer. This experience has shown how valuable staying true to my inner beliefs is to me. I’ve tried before, but it’s difficult to separate the good times I had with her from the ideas she shared that night. She asked if we could forget that conversation ever happened and put our differences aside, but I knew I would never feel the same level of acceptance or comfort around her.
Do I miss hanging out with her? Sure, I do. She was a fun person to be around, and I enjoyed her company. Yet, I’ve made the life-choice to view political and moral ideologies together. I feel uneasy getting closer to her knowing our viewpoints on daily life were so different. I made the decision to strip away political party affiliation- to not look at labels like Democrat and Republican. However, I choose to live and be surrounded by people who share my personal core values. I don’t wish her any ill will and hope she defends her views to the fullest, most educated extent. Everyone deserves the courtesy of freedom of expression, no matter what they believe. It’s important to stay educated and understand the minds of those around us and always remain true to yourself.