Having friends with differing political beliefs isn’t just okay – it’s preferable.

Emmy Sharaan

Having friends with views that might challenge your own isn’t just okay, it should actually be embraced. I frequently stumble across a post while scrolling through social media saying something along the lines of “if you believe/support ‘X’, then unadd me”.  ‘X’ can be anything: from who you support for president, to how you feel about a specific policy issue, to disliking a certain food. Now, the issues such as not wanting to be friends with someone over their taste of food are almost certainly jokes,  unfortunately, the others are usually not. This shouldn’t be a trend at all.
Students here at Augustana understand how important diversity is, and they make a conscious effort to have a diverse group of friends and acquaintances. Why doesn’t that extend to political beliefs? In no other part of our lives is it okay to disclude or discriminate against people that are different from us. There’s no reason we should do that in this case either.
Would it be okay to make that same declaration ― “if you believe this, then get out of my life” about, say, religious affiliation? If we can respect that people have different values than us and different reasons and backgrounds that brought them to that point of view, why can’t we in this case as well? The answer is that we can, but we are actively choosing not to. It’s becoming increasingly acceptable to close off your circle to only those who are like you, and that is concerning.
Now, I’m definitely not saying to be friends with anyone who has any sort of hatred for you or for a group of people. There are certainly some beliefs that make it okay to not associate with someone. However, if it’s something like supporting a political candidate, political party, or a certain stance on a policy issue― it shouldn’t be. There are people from all walks of life, ethnic backgrounds, genders and religions that you can find on all sides of these issues. There are many diverse stances here on campus as well as in our country as a whole- just one part of what makes both of these communities so great.
I don’t have any one friend that agrees with me on every single issue, even if we find ourselves voting for the same candidates. But I prefer it that way. In fact, I appreciate friends who have a different opinion than me and are willing to share it. Even when we may agree on an issue, more often than not, their reasoning for believing it is different than mine. I think it’s very valuable to be exposed to that difference.
My own beliefs and opinions have changed drastically in the last few years. In fact, there are still many issues where I’m comfortable saying I don’t know where I stand yet, and there’s plenty more that I know will continue to change in the coming years.
Surrounding myself with friends who hold different political beliefs will be a crucial part in that change. We should all be open to hearing and learning from those who are different from us.