Reducing My Number of ‘Friends’

Tuileries Garden, Paris. April 1973.

When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for someone to dissolve the bonds of friendship or acquaintance which have connected him with someone else, a decent respect to the opinions of others requires that he should declare what has caused which impel him to that separation.

Friends and acquaintances can have differing and even opposite opinions, provided such opinions are civil and rational.  Although I am a liberal, I enjoy rational and civil discussions with friends and acquaintances who are conservatives. (For examples, my consulting business partner of 15 years, who died in 2015, was stolid western American conservative. I continue to enjoy being Facebook ‘Friends’ with the former publisher of one of the most conservative daily newspapers in the U.S., and with a former Republican party 2018 nominee for the U.S. Senate.) We might politically disagree, but we have rational discussions about those disagreements. Somethings they convince me that they are correct and sometimes I convince them that I am.

However, when I examine all of my my friends and acquaintances–whether liberal or conservative (or in-between), I notice that all fall into two broad, non-political categories. those who are excellent friends, worth having, and those who aren’t.

Below, I’ll explain what I mean by people who are irrational and not worth having as friends. First, however, allow me to note something else that I realized: most of my excellent friends (those denote by green in the box above) are people who I befriended or became acquainted with during my adult life, not when I was growing up or in school. In other words, these are people with whom I rationally chose to become friends; not people with whom I’m friends simply because I grew up near them or were in the same classrooms as they when at school The are friends by rational choice, not happenstance of birth. That makes sense: a youth doesn’t necessarily have the judgement or responsibilities of an adult and therefore isn’t always the best judge of character.

Don’t get me wrong: there are many rational people with who grew up near me or attended the same schools are I, and they are excellent friends. However, when I examine the ranks of people I know who are irrational and so, no matter what their politics, don’t make good friends, almost all of the irrational people I came to know either are who grew up near me or attended the same schools as I. People I knew not by choice but by geographic happenstance of my birth, childhood, and adolescence. I wish it weren’t so, but almost all the racists, misogynists, conspiracy theory loonies, propaganda parrots, serial liars, or otherwise irrational miscreants I know are people with whom I grew up or attended schools more than 50 years ago. I regret that because I am a sentimental and nostalgic man. I loved my childhood and my native town, I still frequently revisit it, even though I left the town 37 years ago. Nevertheless, the time has come for me to sever several of my friends and acquaintances from those days.

The risk of limiting the number of your friends is that you could surround yourself only with friends whose thinking and opinions are exactly the same as your own. Indeed, becoming caught in a ‘bubble’ or ‘echo chamber’ can be seductive for gullible or weak-minded people. Yet, as the German philosopher Hegel noted, human progress is often a result of the dialectic between thesis and anti-thesis ultimately resulting in synthesis. To lead a healthy life, you need to hear different opinions than just your own. Exposing your own hypotheses and prejudices to attack by others is what corrects, hones, and strengthens them (and sometimes destroying them). That is why I maintain friendships with rational conservatives. It is the irrational ones are who I need to jettison.

Who am I jettisoning as a ‘friends’ or acquaintances? I won’t name names, but I will their characteristics. Any one of these characteristics is enough to jettison the person. Unfortunately, many of these miscreates have more than one of these characteristics:

  1. Racists: For more than 40 years I have traveled the world and know first-hand that no individual is superior to another according to race or religion. If you are an anti-semite, anti-moslem, anti-hindu, anti-oriental, anti-hispanic, anti-caucasian, etc., beware because I will try to eradicate you. Know too that this includes miscreants who protest that they are not racists yet they, for examples, question the nationality of an African-American U.S. president born in Hawaii, or disparage Jewish emigres to the U.S., or claim that Moslem immigrants should be banned from emigration simply because they are Moslems. The United States Constitution states that my nation does not discriminate on the race, creeds, or national origin. If you are an American who does, then leave this nation–you are a disgrace to it.
  2. Sexists: if you are posting mostly sarcastic pictures of the female politicians of party that you oppose, when female politicians comprise only a fraction of that party’s politicians, then you a sexist wimp who needs to see a psychiatrist about your inferiority complex about women or your ‘mommy’ issues. That’s what you telegraph when you (supposedly an adult) post such pictures.
  3. Crayon Toddlers: Likewise, if you habitually post physically-distorted photos of politicians from a political party you oppose or photo of them simply calling them ‘idiots’ and the like, without explaining why you think this, then you are demonstrably not an adult but clearly a immature fool with the emotional stability of a five-year old. Intelligent people (in other words: adults) don’t use online forums as toilet bowls. Instead, they reason with people. If someone above the age of sixteen feels the need to act like a three-year old, to hell with them. They need the help of a child psychologist, not me. I’d rather deal with an adult.
  4. Propaganda Parrots: The birds named parrots are loud but lousy conversationalists. They lack any cognitive abilities to examine what they say. They instead just stupidly repeat whatever things they have heard. However colorful, these stupid animals just make noise and the favorite pets of propagandists. Propagandists thrive on them.
  5. Intentional Liars: If you are someone who has been given known proof that something is untrue, yet you “wish it were true”, then you knowingly spread that lie, you ably demonstrated what a deceit you are. Likewise, if a person has been documented to be a serial liar (by which I mean not tens or scores but telling thousands of lies), then that person should be clearly be removed for hygienic reasons: he has proven to be a fecal liar.
  6. Conspiracy Theorists: Hey, maybe John F. Kennedy is still alive and with Marilyn Monroe in Paraguay?  How do you know that is not true? To most conspiracy theorists, lack of evidence means proof of conspiracy. They are incapable of understanding chance, probabilities, the devastating full capabilities of single actors (viz, Lee Harvey Oswald), or that the probability of keep an actual conspiracy secret decreases, according to Metcalfe’s Law, with the number of people such a conspiracy needs to involve. As an adult, I prefer evidence and proof, rather than fishing expeditions fantasies. Some people can’t tell the difference between reality and comic books.
  7. Fans of criminals or of abusers: When you claim that a politician you hate must be guilty because he has had nine women accuse him of sexual assault, yet you says a politician you like is being falsely victimized by the nineteen women who accuse him of sexual assault, then you’re clearly a hypocrite. How many accusations of rape should cause a public official’s resignation? One, five, ten, nineteen? I advocate that if an establish police agency has found evidence to bring such charges, then a trial should be held. No one is above or immune from the law. Nonetheless, I do know that if a politician boasts before an election that he loves to grab female strangers by their genital (indeed, boasting that while he knows he is professionally wired for sound, a demonstration of his profound stupidity, then his political party should remove him from the ballot. That is the way it had been for all political parties during the first 227 years of the United States’ 231 in existence. Likewise, if a state or federal court has banned a politician, due to “a pattern of criminal behavior,” from ever again operating a charity. To do otherwise is immoral and un-American. And what if that politician did indeed openly shoot somebody on Fifth Avenue? If you continued to support him, you clearly abet such conduct.
  8. Blithering Irrationals: The domestic and global success of the United States is based upon respect for facts, laws, and truths. If you fantastically deny facts (including science), ignore existing laws, and disregard established truths (which are a function of evidence and scientific method), then you’re not only un-American but an idiot.
  9. Bouncer Fodder: If Facebook or Twitter or any other social media company has ever ejected you from them banned your account for a period of time, then you’ve clearly proven yourself to be contemptable. I don’t need to await anything further.

I write all this in case you had been one of my Facebook ‘friends’ or acquaintances but have noticed that you no longer are. I regret that among those racists, conspiracy theory loonies, propaganda parrots, and intentional or serial liars I am jettisoning as friends were my two best friends while growing up, plus a dozen or so other people whom I have had found memories from those days 40 or 60 years.

If instead of first meeting these people more than 50 years ago when I was in kindergarten, elementary, or secondary schools, or even college, I first met them today, I would not befriend or otherwise become acquainted with them. So, why should I remain friends with them today just because they once were? No amount of childhood memorial fondness or nostalgia should permit adult friendship with racists, liars, misogynists, etc. Shame on me for not having booted them earlier.

Indeed, now that American voters have fired President Donald Trump, many of these miscreants are posting statements saying things such as “Just because we had different political opinions, doesn’t mean we can’t stay friends!”  Wrong. Political opinion differences were not what we had. They instead went extreme: racist, misogynist, a propaganda parrot, intentional liar, conspiracy theorist, acolyte of a criminal or an abuser, or blitheringly irrational. I regard them as no better than the Germans who during the enthusiastically backed Hitler and his plans for ethnic cleansing yet then from 1945 onwards ingeniously claimed not to have known or realized that any such things existed. No, you didn’t put anybody in gas chambers. Yet you did begin enthusiastically goose-stepping America rightwards. That’s why rational Republicans such as the Bush and McCain families, as well as renowned Republican political commentators such Bill Kristol and George Will, condemned Trumpism from its onset. Goodbye and good riddance.

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