When I was in my late teens and visiting Chicago, a friend took me out on the town. She was an anti-fascist skinhead, and she listened to Ska. Out of all the songs that we listened to that summer, that one stuck with me for life, even though I can’t remember who sang it.
If you’ve got a racist friend
now is the time
now is the time
for that friendship to end.
My friend wasn’t a racist, she was friends with people she liked, whose interests matched up with hers, and that was all that mattered. Her little sister was friends with a relative of mine, and I always found it interesting that in a city the size of Chicago they couldn’t find a single non-white friend. We don’t really talk, and she married someone with Latino heritage but a Nordic name, so I can’t say too much about it, I guess.
But the song kept popping into my head, and it always makes me think, when is it time to say good bye to your friends and never speak to them again?
A friend I mentioned here before, told me – and I’ve written this down as well – that if she were to stop speaking to everyone who made a racist remark, she wouldn’t have anyone left. Living in Hungary, I’m beginning to understand her point of view. I only heard one person call a black person black, and not the n-word, and I’ve been here for over a year.
There’s a change in these parts of the world, a very strong one. People are being polarized, and it works. Where once they would admit to having darker skinned friends (while still using the n-word when talking about them), mum’s the word now. People are getting vocal about preserving “our Christian values” and that leaves no room for anyone else. I’m not against freedom of speech, immway too American for that. And much as I hate it, I do believe it is a person’s right to say they don’t like X, Y, or Z, though racial slurs and any insult on any grounds about something the person can’t change should be banned (if you end up with dog excrement on your soles because you were watching a man or a woman you could have sworn was into you but clearly wasn’t, you deserve to be laughed at in a way, especially if you’d do the same to your friends).
People have been getting vocal with the upcoming elections on both sides, and it’s getting to me in a big way. Friends who swore they’d protect me from the racists and anti-Semites they knew are now posting their updates, and it feels like betrayal. Sure, we’re not close enough, we haven’t known each other for that long, but it still smacks of betrayal. I have friends who support politicians I never could, and they do update (as is their right), and it feels weird for a minute or two, but nothing like seeing friends campaign for The Party with all their heart. It’s as though The Party is more important than the air that they breathe, which I’m sure that it is. People are even talking of “watching the elections” in several public places, restaurants and bars we hung out at, arranging with the owners to reserve tables, and that – more than the campaigning crusades – is the ultimate betrayal. I can never look those people in the face again, laugh and joke with them like we used to, because in the back of my mind is the thought, if war broke out they wouldn’t help. They say that’s the typical reaction of the child of a Holocaust survivor, that you can feel the horrors for at least three generations, little things, such as always being prepared for war, slurs, and attacks. I think that’s absolutely true, and that coupled with the story teller in me creates parallels between today and 1932. The most telling thing being that gathering.
The funny thing is, I love crowds. When we lived in Germany, my favorite thing were the fun fairs. Even if I was dead broke and couldn’t afford any of the rides, I’d still walk around with a smile, soaking up the atmosphere. I’m one of those people who gets energized in crowds, the more people around me, the better, and the happier I feel. But when it suddenly turns political that very same happiness turns to trepidation and fear. Especially when it’s in honor of someone preaching hatred and division.
So, is it wrong to feel a rift with your friends because they are so into the new regime they forget everything else? That they don’t see parallels? Or are we the ones overreacting, because no matter how little our parents talked about it, we’ve still read a lot of the books (those we can stomach – I had to give Leon Uris’ Mila 18 to my best friend with instructions to never let me near it, no matter how much I begged and pleaded, because it messed with my brain so much; she never did – or the ones our parents recommended, knowing we needed to know even when they were unable to talk). We know what our parents and grandparents went through (those who survived), because of the signs of PTSD we grew up with. Politics scare us more than our peers, because we were directly affected by those who suffered the most.
Politics shouldn’t play into it, because I have more in common with those on the right than those from the left. When you strip all the politics and ideologies away. There’s the mutual interests and great conversation, the banter, and stuff only they get. I know I’ll miss them, and to be fair they never asked me straight out. They know where I stand on the issue of migration (homogenous cultures and societies are boring, but men catcalling you or worse isn’t something we should put up with either, no matter the culture of origin). We’ve talked about our viewpoints, but that was pretty much it. I’m all for people being more liberal or conservative, if the proverbial shoe fits.
And despite all that, there’s still the unanswered question, should we let those friends go? It’s really a question we need to answer for ourselves. For my part, I’ll probably still talk to them, but I’ll also be distant. There will be a rift. Because supporting The Party is one thing. But attending a rally, eating and drinking and being merry while the results trickle in, to me that’s betrayal.