Back when Jonah Goldberg was funny and insightful, this was before he went full-metal Tom Nichols and flipped into just another virtue signalling and completely predictable NeverTrumper, he wrote a wonderful essay titled “Conservatives in the Mist.” That essay, now apparently disappeared from the internet, compares the quest of liberals, particularly the liberal media, to understand conservatives to Dian Fossey’s anthropological forays among Rwanda’s mountain gorilla tribes, title is a riff off the title of the biopic about her life among the gorillas.
That essay was the first thing that popped in my mind a few days ago, this tweet appeared in my timeline.
If you don't have a single conservative (or even a vaguely right-leaning person) among your friends and friends of friends, you're doing something wrong. Or, if you think it's right, then you should at least be straight up about it: It means you're not as open minded as you think
— Shadi Hamid (@shadihamid) June 30, 2020
To be honest, I know nothing about Mr. Hamid. I couldn’t pick him out of a two-man line-up. It is entirely possible that he is a very nice person who loves kittens and gives freely of his time, talent and treasure to worthy causes. It would, however, be hard, in my view, to come up with a more condescending and arrogant statement this side of saying “you need to get a black friend” than what he’s proposing here. The idea of having a token conservative in one’s circle of friends to signal your own ‘open mindedness’ is pretty disgusting when you get down to it.
Let me make this simple for persons of Mr. Hamid’s philosophy. I’m not your pet. I don’t want to be friends with you for any reason much less for the purpose of allowing you to feel good about yourself.
There was a time in the distant past when I counted some Democrats within my circle of friends, but I probably shed the last of those around 1995 as I was jettisoning a former girlfriend. I think the fall of the Soviet Union served to remove the last common ground between the left and the right in America, to the extent that the left was pro-American and not pro-Soviet. With no existential threat we discovered that we really didn’t need each other and, in fact, our lives would be much simpler and happier if the other folks weren’t there. I can’t imagine any more dysfunctional relationship than one where every encounter results is having your values insulted, being required to defend your faith and beliefs, and held up as an object and exemplar of a political philosophy and discussed like a piece of meat rather than a human. Sort of like being a conservative on Twitter.
I had "conservative" and "liberal" friends. Then my "conservative" friends started saying we should run cars into protestors, lock kids in cages and "hang Obama". As it turns out we don't disagree about tax policies…we disagree about basic human values. Now we aren't friends.
— Fred Wellman (@FPWellman) June 30, 2020
These days, I don’t associate with anyone from the left outside of the work place and neutral ground such as church and athletics because not only do I find their belief system to be abhorrent it is also obvious that their politics trumps all else and they will destroy you given the chance. Nearly every day we encounter a story on social media where a leftist turns on a former friend who is conservative and betrays a confidence to get them fired or inflict some other form of distress upon them. Just to be safe, when on this neutral ground, I adhere to the rule of the Officer’s Mess, that is, you don’t discuss religion or politics. In fact, 9 out of 10 times when you run into a self-identified conservative who talks about all the friends they have on the left, you are looking at someone who has lost faith in their own values and is looking for a reason to bolt. These people, quite honestly, are just as suspect as your typical BLM member.
To count someone a friend you need some shared experiences and beliefs. To invite someone into your circle of friends implies sharing a degree of intimacy based upon trust. In the current environment, that intimacy does nothing but provide ammunition that an eventual and inevitable enemy will use to try to hurt you. That trust is sure to be betrayed.
Does this mean you can’t be cordial? Of course not. As Winston Churchill once explained, ‘a gentleman is someone who is never unintentionally rude.’ Does it mean we can collaborate on common areas that have a common solution (none come to mind, off hand, but I’m sure they exist)? No, it doesn’t. But what it does mean that never lose sight of the fact that these tangential contacts are just that and they have to be tightly managed lest you find something sharp and unpleasant being shoved up your fourth point of contact and broken off.
Bottom line is that I’m not so pathetically desperate for companionship that I want to be treated as though I were a conversation piece. My personal time is precious and I choose to spend it with people whom I like and trust. No one on the left passes those two tests.