Roger and Me by
25
(46 Stories)

Prompted By Disunited States

Loading Share Buttons...

/ Stories

A world of differences. (Image by John Hain/Pixabay)

I have a good friend whom I have known a long time. We both come from Oklahoma and have a lot in common. Mostly we just like and respect each other. His name is Roger, and he is one of the most successful people I’ve known, not only professionally but in his personal life as well.

Understanding and respect can go a long way toward developing a bridge to peace.

Roger not only has a good brain, but he also has a good heart and spends many hours each week volunteering as an elder in his church. He retired a few years ago from serving his country in the military for 41 years, attaining the highest officer rank the armed forces give.

Honored, humbled

He told me a few months ago he holds me in high esteem, and I am honored but also deeply humbled by that, because I’ve made some bonehead mistakes in life.

I can’t imagine trusting any man more than Roger, and yet he  and I are different in a way that keeps too many Americans from being friends at all.

Roger is a conservative, and I am a liberal.

Those are broad political definitions, however, and only start to define us as people. Neither of us is either hard right nor hard left, although the intensity of our beliefs vary on certain issues. Not every issue is created equal to us. I think both of us see ourselves overall as political moderates with a lean in different directions.

Different story

I met another guy the other day over the phone. He’s also a Sooner, his name is John, and I wanted to interview him for a  book I am writing now. We got through the initial pleasantries well, and he agreed to meet me in person. He seemed like a nice buy so I also sent him a friend request on Facebook.

Fifteen minutes later, John messaged me back. He had changed his mind about me.

“Jim,” he wrote, “I just saw your FB page, and I can’t be friends with someone who supports the clown in our White House right now.”

This despite the fact our dads knew each other and I told him i wanted to mention his family as making a big contribution to the people of our hometown.

Even so, he rejected my friend request, blocked me, and wrote off the interview request, too.

In thinking about these two different cases — Roger and John — I realize they say a lot about the state of our nation today and about some of those divisions among people can be bridged. Or not.

What makes people like Roger and me work is that we realize neither of us is defined totally by our political, social, or religious doctrines. Those beliefs form key parts of us, but not always the entirety. As Roger told me a few months ago, “I know your heart, Jim.” I told him I know his, too, and it’s a fine one.

To know someone’s heart is to believe they care for the greater good, and they try to understand others’ views  This person holds many different beliefs and values. Some of those we may agree with or not, but we know this is a good person who has valid reasons for holding those beliefs. We trust that he or she sees  those beliefs as a way forward to reaching a larger goal that both of us would agree is valuable.

For example, take gun ownership. One may argue that tighter access to guns will limit crimes using guns. But another would argue that we are safer having a gun in our home because it can give us protection from a home invader. In this argument, safety and a sense of peace are the goals; one believes they’re reachable by having a gun; one believes the opposite.

Pedaling hard

Also it also means we know we are each trying every day to be the best people we can be … the best versions of ourselves. We respect each other for that instead of pigeonholing the other or discounting them entirely because they vote Republican, Independent, or Democrat.

Roger and I have known each other a long time and that helps. But, back at the start, if we had decided we couldn’t be friends because of our political leanings, we would have never taken the time to get know each at all.

When I was a newspaper editor, there were some issues I felt compelled to take a hard stand on, but sometimes a fact might surface later that I was unaware of. I wished then that I had waited a day to argue my case in light of this new information.

Explain or opine

In general, I felt more comfortable writing explanatory editorials, presenting both sides to a case and letting the reader decide. It depended on the issue and what I knew or didn’t know. Sometimes an editor just has to admit they don’t have all the facts on a subject.

I have blocked a few people from my Facebook page because I felt they were ranting, their rants were not fact-based, and they were being disrespectful to others In some cases, I have agreed politically with these people, but I sitll didn’t want people on my page to be disrespected by these posts.

In some cases I’ve been verbally attacked for even having friends who were conservatives. I don’t choose my friends on the basis of political parties, any more than I choose them on whether they are dog or cat people.

I’ve learned to like both.

Profile photo of Jim Willis Jim Willis
I am a writer, college professor, and author of several nonfiction books, including three on the decade of the 1960s. Several wonderful essays of gifted Retrospect authors appear in my book, "Daily Life in the 1960s."


Characterizations: been there, well written

Comments

  1. Khati Hendry says:

    This story made me sad, because what you describe with you and Roger is the way it should be—just as there used to be a possibility of bipartisan compromise—and is so threatened. The example of the other person who just pigeonholed you case in point. Your writing is thoughtful and moving. I keep hoping someday people will look back and wonder how we got so skewed, when we all need to work together to thrive.

  2. Thanx for your story Jim. Your relationship with Roger is admirable; the situation with John sad.

    My husband and I were introduced by mutual friends J and G. J was Danny’s childhood friend and I went to college with both J and G.

    In our early days we were a close foursome. In fact when J was serving in Vietnam, we spent a lot of time with G who then had a newborn.

    Their politics were always conservative as opposed to our liberal bent , but it wasn’t an issue until Trump. They both support him and had been flooding our inboxes with pro-Trump literature until we said no more.

    We’re still civil but the friendship will never be the same.

  3. Jim, you provide an excellent model and goal for a kind, understanding and tolerant person. I have a neighbor who is an ex-felon, a gun enthusiast who is supports the idea that all children should take a gun to school, a deer hunter with a crossbow, and a person with a chip on his shoulder. But he is a great neighbor who mows our lawn, saws and clears fallen trees in our yard, and several times drove me home when I was incapacitated by dehydration during a walk in high temperatures. He is a Trumper, believes the government is an enemy, the law, is repressive, and he has the right to defend his 200+, 6ft+ body any time he feels threatened.
    We walk our dogs every day for a mile, talking and throwing a ball for our dogs to retrieve.
    I have a former student who is an internationally famous artist, who has lived in Japan enough to know some Japanese, and who is socially welcomed everywhere. Except in my presence. He is a thorough Trumper to the extent he will not get a vaccination. My wife has suffered from long COVID-19, I am 85,. Due to my fears for my safety, I will not meet with him despite his invitations. He has insulted my wife, and has engaged in political activities are abhorrent to me. I will talk to him over the phone about art but not about politics.

    My neighborhood is full of Trumpers–the next-door neighbor has a blue liens matters flag foisted over the driveway next to our home–we share the driveway. In addition, he is a policeman.! Another neighbor claims that because the atmosphere is large, and the sky over our lake is blue, there is no evidence for climate change. Other neighbors are unwilling to talk about anything but boats, fishing, and guns. Some say they are afraid to express any political views contrary to Trump’s.
    In sum. I wish you were my neighbor. Unless you were unvaccinated and refused to wear a mask!

  4. Laurie Levy says:

    Thank you, Jim, for reminding us we can disagree as long as we are respectful and open to hearing what others think.

  5. Betsy Pfau says:

    It is difficult to try to straddle the divide these days, Jim. I’ve learned to not put anything controversial or political on my Facebook page, for fear of reprisal. It is a sad statement, but that is where we are now. We should be able to listen to others, but we don’t seem capable of it, as you have ably discussed in your essay.

Leave a Reply