According to the Monmouth University Polling Institute, 7% of voters ended a friendship over the presidential election season. This does not count the broken or strained relationships. Most count these losses as people being either overly excited or too sensitive to tolerate strong “opinions.” I care to differ.
Many people speak of politics in a way that suggests that politics somehow exists outside of their daily existence. It is as though politics should not be personal. However, politics impact our daily existence. In a democracy, someone else’s voice has weight on what my life will look like. Take my morning for example, politics played a role in whether or not I was able to have access to my institution of higher learning and earn my PhD. It is politics that told my employer that they cannot discriminate against me due to my race, gender, abilities/disabilities, religion, or sexual orientation. The more recent conversations hit closer. Will my children be deported? Can I stay married to my husband or wife? Can I go to the doctor when I’m in pain? Can I pay my student loans? Will I be able to receive the mental health care I need after my tragedy? These questions are not distant thoughts. They are real and visceral.
Monmouth goes on the argue that a significant majority of voters believe “the 2016 campaign has brought out the worst in people.” I’d like to offer a shift in wording. What this election season has done is brought out the “realness” in people. We gave ourselves permission to provide an authentic impression of the issues that matter most, nudging on our values and how we make sense of the world. Most of us were not allowed to be silent or sit on the sidelines while others hashed it out. More than likely, something was said that hit us in the pit of our stomachs.
So, if you have lost a friend over election season, it is not simply because of “opinions.” More than likely, you have lost a friend due to differences in values and beliefs, because you and your concerns have been invalidated, ignored, overly-simplified, or down right disrespected. It’s because someone else’s voice was going to dictate your freedoms. It is okay to be angry, sad, disappointed, frustrated, and concerned. Why? Because politics are personal and, as humans, we strive to protect our well-being and integrity. Though losing a friend is not easy, protecting ourselves sometimes means that we must let go of the people who have an unhealthy impact on our lives and well-being. Take it for what you may but I give myself permission to lose friends over politics.
These concise blog posts were created to make information about mental health understandable, relatable, and accessible to non-mental health professionals.
Please note: information in these articles are not clinical recommendations. Rather, they are general tools for thinking about your mental health in a different way. They have been written by
Dr. Shatina Williams and should not be reproduced without her permission.
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