I’ve never been the type of person who needs a large group of friends and a full calendar of social events. I’m happy being at home, and quite content with a small group of close friends, enjoying less frequent but more meaningful get-togethers. My closest friends are those not put off by my anti-social ways. Even if months have passed since last we spoke, when I see them again it’s like no time has passed at all.
Despite all of that, I’m feeling lonely lately, and it’s not because of being stuck at home while social distancing due to COVID. I’m a homebody so I thrive working from home and I genuinely enjoy the company of my husband and son. I love to read and often prefer my books and the characters in them over interacting with real people. We have wonderful friends, but it’s been nice not having to coax myself to spend a night out with friends when I’d rather curl up on the couch with a book. My husband says if left to my own devices I could live the life of a hermit.
So it isn’t this strange new life of COVID seclusion that is the problem; I feel lonely and isolated lately because for the first time in my life, differences in political opinion are making it hard to even relate to some family and friends. I can’t even comprehend anymore the logic that bases arguments on conspiracy theories from unreliable news sources who’ve been proven to lack any backing for their stories, while denying the validity of reporting that is produced by credible news sources who fact check their own reporters before publishing stories.
I’ve always enjoyed a good debate with friends and family on religion, politics, world policy, and a plethora of other topics. In the past, differing opinions on these topics felt like just that — a difference of opinion. We might not see eye to eye, but we listened to each other’s arguments to broaden our own understanding of different viewpoints. And these differences of opinion did not change my opinion of the core person on the other side of the debate. Most people I associate with have similar values and morals at the root, so though we might disagree on the details, we usually agree on the desired outcome.
Or so I thought.
The differences, especially political, now feel like much more than just varying opinions; they feel like divergences in core values and morals to the point of being morally offensive. How do I support someone with friendship when the political positions they back promote racism and oppression in my view? When they do not believe two people have the right to love each other unless it is in a manner preached by their church? When they support bills and laws that make it more difficult for women to have access to health care, even beyond the right to choose? When they view peaceful protestors who just want to be heard as “antifa”? When they view it as an impingement of their rights to be asked to wear a mask?
But yet, these are people I admire and love, and that I know do many wonderful, heartfelt things for their families, friends, and communities. They show through their actions they care about others when they prioritize their families, volunteer their time and donate their money; but they show through their votes that they prefer a president who belittles women, provides a platform for racist groups, praises men with guns when they march against and plot to kidnap a democratic governor, restricts the civil rights of anyone who is not a heterosexual Christian, and has no qualms about calling people names and behaving like a schoolyard bully, which is reprehensible in a grown man.
The “Christian” high ground that the current president and so many of his cronies claim they are working from is nothing more than a front to justify their self-serving actions and policies to protect their wealth and social standing. Prior to this president, groups such as the Ku Klux Klan, Boogaloo Bois, and Proud Boys remained on the fringes as radicals whom society refused to give a public platform. That has changed under this administration. Racist propaganda, rallies, and public pronouncements have become common place. How is it that people I know as decent people can support an administration that has allowed this to happen?
Up until this administration started whining about “fake news” every time they were called out for abusing their offices or lying to the public, Americans mostly respected the media. Yes, there are some media sources who’ve never cared if they report the truth as long as the headline gets readers, but most of us know who those outlets are. We also know that there are many reputable, mainstream news sources reporting with integrity, using fact checkers to verify the stories reporters write before publishing them. No reporting agency is without its biases, but if you do your research, you will find there are many well-known news outlets still adhering to strict standards of reporting, and these outlets are vital in maintaining the checks and balances on our government. For the current government to convince people that credible journalists gathering reports that have been verified are “fake news” is not only ludicrous, it’s scary as hell! How can smart people believe that everyone else is lying except the president and his cronies? And how can they not see the danger in this way of thinking?
There have been presidents in the past that I did not like because I did not agree with their political platforms, but never did I feel as though what they were doing was morally reprehensible and ethically unacceptable, that it endangered the rights of so many different groups of people. This president, administration, and those who support him have shown with their actions that they do not have the same values and morals that I cling to. They do not believe in a separation of church and state; they do not treat people equally or with compassion; they do not care about long term sustainability of the environment; they believe the LGBTQI community are sinners and not deserving of the same rights to access health care or be protected as a citizen of this country as straight Christian Americans; they do not see the harm in tolerating white supremist groups; they are not offended that the president has made it acceptable to mock people with handicaps; they do not find it disgusting that the president belittles the value of women with his bragging that he can “grab ’em by the pussy. You can do anything.”
I find all of the above to be a direct affront to the values and morals I cling to because I believe people have a right to be treated fairly, heard when they feel they are oppressed, and are deserving of basic human rights regardless their sexual orientation, religious beliefs, race, or socio-economic standing. And I don’t want to validate those who support this in any way.
So this is why I am feeling lonely and isolated. I feel disconnected from a lot of people in my life whom I have loved, admired, respected, and cherished for many years because now I don’t know how to talk to them or be around them.I can’t even begin to fathom how they can deny the injustice, oppression, and harm that is being fostered by this administration. Are their values, morals, and empathy for anyone who is not just like them so skewed as to think this is all OK?
There is no intellectual debate or reasoning, and the resulting conversations are disheartening, deflating, and depressing. Now the conversations feel surreal as they mock facts and spew conspiracy theories. I feel like I’m the new girl in middle school again, living in a bubble of isolation; but the bubble and resulting loneliness isn’t because of social distancing due to COVID — it’s because of social distancing due to avoiding inevitably futile conversations that result in an increasing chasm.
I’ve become quite comfortable social distancing, but it is lonely knowing that I may not have the same social circle when I finally emerge from my bubble.