Jeremy Friedlander: Deane and I

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Jeremy Friedlander and a good friend disagree about most things, but not their friendship.

My friend Deane and I walk together for about an hour each week. We often discuss subjects about which we disagree. There are plenty of them.

Deane is a Republican, a conservative libertarian, and an NRA member. I'm a Democrat and a liberal who has never touched a gun. Though not an adherent of any organized religion, Deane presupposes the existence of God and seeks His guidance. I’m an atheist. You get the idea.

I often feel frustrated during our walks, thinking I’m not listening, understanding, or speaking well enough. It seems to me that we often give different meanings to the same words without resolving the difference. We have spent a long time on “incitement” in relation to you know who.

Yet I feel enriched overall and keep returning for more, as does Deane. He listens carefully and responds thoughtfully. He is patient. He keeps trying to connect when connection seems elusive. He says he enjoys the process of coming to know and understand each other.

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So it turns out that an ideological divide does not necessarily harm friendship and may even foster it by allowing friends to learn and grow together. I find more work and less pleasure in that process than he does, but no less value.

People like me can feel contempt for Republicans. I need to be reminded that a political opponent can be as gracious and decent as any ally. The anti-vitriol campaign has no ideology.

I don’t want to overstate the case. Deane and I are more alike than different. We usually communicate just fine. The easy pleasure of those connections helps me when I find connection elusive. Deane and I are not climbing mountains, and the hills we do climb don’t require great virtue. But they do encourage and reward the virtue of opening oneself to a very different view of the world. Hilltop views can resuscitate.

Deane says my friendship with him is evidence of God’s love for him. That sounds pretty good to this atheist.

With a Perspective, I'm Jeremy Friedlander

Jeremy Friedlander lives in San Francisco.