Over the course of the past three years, I’ve had some acquaintanceships and casual friendships end because of my support of President TrumpDonald TrumpRobert Gates says 'extreme polarization' is the greatest threat to US democracy Cassidy says he won't vote for Trump if he runs in 2024 Schiff says holding Bannon in criminal contempt 'a way of getting people's attention' MORE, never once by my choice.
All of these were lost well before the president's daily briefings and other actions regarding the COVID-19 crisis. These briefings and his response to the virus, I’ve discovered, have only amplified the anger within those who cannot stand the president.
One casual friendship abruptly ended last year because I would not acknowledge that Trump is a climate change denier who advances the insidious goal of killing off humanity. The person making that charge is an accomplished executive.
When I politely asked over the phone if this person truly believes Trump’s ultimate “goal” is to kill off the world — including his children, grandchildren and future Trump generations — my friend screamed at me and then hung up, forever.
Many who dare to even respectfully defend this president have become familiar with such rage-induced responses.
A number of Trump supporters, from every walk of life, sadly have come to accept being ostracized by colleagues, friends, neighbors and acquaintances who literally (and sometimes irrationally) hate the president. It has become a painful reality.
While this isn't the first time a president has inspired such division or outright hatred in relatively modern times — the animosities involving former Presidents Kennedy, Lyndon Johnson and Nixon in the 1960s and 1970s come to mind — those involving Trump seem deeper, more bitter and seemingly permanent. And not just because they are current.
I knew one person whose 35-year friendship ended when her friend learned that she voted for Donald Trump. Again, the Trump voter tolerated screaming over the phone and was told, “You are now dead to me.” The fact that the woman who voted for Trump was the godmother of the other woman’s son mattered not at all. Worse than losing that lifelong friendship was the added pain of being told that her godson now also wants nothing to do with her.
I had sympathy for this woman but questioned how strong the friendship truly could have been if, after more than 30 years, it could end quickly in such a petty, spiteful way. Certainly, I thought to myself, my long-term friendships are much deeper; they’re unbreakable.
That mistaken belief was just shattered. A close friendship of 30 years became one more victim of the “cancel culture” — this time, via text.
Unless asked, I tend not to talk politics with family or friends. I have lived it, one way or the other, for the past few decades. To be honest, I’d much rather talk about entertainment, travel, books or sports, especially because of the polarizing, anti-Trump times we live in.
As soon as Trump was elected, my friend of three decades began to complain about him. I ignored his regular rants and kept to my “safe” subjects. A few months in, he dialed up the anger and conspiracy theories. Still, I refused to take the bait. I’d talk about memories from work or ask about his family.
But his anger soon turned to rage. I would get screeds by text saying that Trump was going to install landmines across the U.S.-Mexico border, that he was going to “authorize trigger-happy Trump vigilantes” to shoot anyone who made it through the minefield and that Trump was going to suspend the Constitution to remain president for life.
All this from a once close friend who is an incredibly good, decent person, a family man with a wife and children, someone considered to be part of the bedrock of his community.
When the news broke a couple of months ago that President Trump was exploring how best to remove Obama administration holdovers and “Never Trumpers” from his own administration — as is his right — my friend pounced again, declaring, “This proves he is a dictator.”
I tried to explain that this is standard operating procedure for any president, from either party. Former President ObamaBarack Hussein ObamaAbrams targets Black churchgoers during campaign stops for McAuliffe in Virginia Virginia race looms as dark cloud over Biden's agenda The root of Joe Biden's troubles MORE did the same things, and because of Trump’s flawed and incompetent transition process, he is way behind schedule to do something that should have been handled during the first week of his administration. To this, my friend replied that he no longer can tolerate my defense of this “dictator” and that continuing our friendship is impossible.
No doubt some people who openly profess their hatred of Trump will applaud and encourage the end of friendships, relationships and perhaps even marriages if anyone dares to defend the president and his policies. They should not.
The #Resistance against Trump and his supporters is morphing into outright anarchy, sometimes triggering violence. These are dangerous places, full of slippery slopes, copycat minds and lines that never should be crossed — again, especially in the midst of the public health emergency. The best way for someone who doesn’t like Trump to exercise control is to vote against him in November.
With regard to colleagues, friends, neighbors and relatives who might support the president, instead of hating them and ending relationships, try celebrating the fact that in America we are still allowed to believe, worship and vote as we please. Totalitarian groupthink victory for either side will be the end of us all.
Douglas MacKinnon, a political and communications consultant, was a writer in the White House for Presidents Ronald Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and former special assistant for policy and communications at the Pentagon during the last three years of the Bush administration.