We have a friend, well, actually he is Mr FD’s friend from university days, so he is an “old friend” in many ways. Over the years we have maintained the exchange of Christmas greetings and occasional visits. Now Mr FD and Friend are semi-retired and have more time to use social media and exchange media.
An issue has arisen in that friend, a baby boomer as we all are, has a very binary world focus. This was highlighted recently when on a recent current events panel program on television, a man asked a question about tax cuts and then had to suffer the arrows of the public media as his private life was trashed. He asked one very respectful question to a politician and the hounds went for his throat. Friend was one of the hounds.
It seems that the if you fail in anyway, you must be punished. Everyone must be held responsible for who they are and what they do. It doesn’t matter if you are mentally ill, intellectually impaired, been mentally and physically abused, a member of the Stolen Generation, or any of the myriad other issues that work against children from the minute they are conceived.
Once, Mr FD and I probably would have held a similar opinion, but through the years, education and life experiences we have completely walked away from such a binary paradigm. If generations of your family have been used and abused, if you have been born with foetal alcohol syndrome, if you grew up in abuse and violence, extreme family dysfunction and poverty, can it really be expected that you are going to make all the right decisions in life not to end up on welfare, homeless or with a substance abuse problem?
I am not saying that a murderer shouldn’t be imprisoned. I am asking that a wider lens than black and white be applied. Friend cannot entertain the position we hold and has taken to writing long editorial type sermons on social media casting against our personal views. We have taken the steps of blocking him, sadly.
Mr FD doesn’t have a large number of friends, but he has decided to part from this particular friend, for he finds his opinions and behaviour abhorrent. Obviously friend always had these views but due to the small amount of contact we were able to overlook or tolerate his views through politeness, but now that he airs them daily on social media, and within the inner friendship group, his racist, narrow minded mindset is fully revealed.
If you sit by and say, or do nothing, are you not saying that prejudice is all right? Does it not reinforce postures that destroy individuals and divides society? As I explain to my students if you stand by and do nothing, then you are part of the problem too.
Mr FD has told friend why he can no longer sanction his views, and of course friend then had to make some very personal attacks on Mr FD, even suggesting that Mr FD has severe mental issues (and we all know only I can say that!). Friend just can’t tolerate the idea that someone may not think he is the fountain of all knowledge and that his edicts are incontestable.
My point is, that no matter our age, or what stage of life, we need to reflect on our values and acknowledge that just because we were friends with someone one, doesn’t mean we will always remain so. I think it is important to know our values, to stand by them and to live our lives accordingly. I also refuse to give up hope that one day friend will experience empathy for those who have the harder road in life.