The Friend of My Friend is None of My Concern
Why can't we just let each other be?
Last week (and continuing into this one), I had another demonstration of just how much some people care about who you associate with. I say “another” because I am routinely taken to task and asked to denounce friends. If I listened every time I was called on to ditch someone by various angry mobs, I’d probably have few friends left.
Let me tell you why this will never work.
I fight the trans movement because it is authoritarian. I believe all of the rest of its negative effects on women, children, gay and lesbian people, and society as a whole are downstream of its authoritarian nature. This is a movement that gets people fired from their jobs and ostracized from their social circles because of their beliefs, opinions, and often even because of who they choose to associate with.
It should come as no surprise, then, that I hate coercive and controlling behavior. I don’t give anybody a pass for it, no matter what movement they claim to represent.
I realize people can and might react to this by throwing out a myriad of reasons why the friends of our friends should be of concern to us—plenty of them very compelling reasons that many others could agree with. Plenty of them would likely even be reasons I could agree with. My rule is not absolute and I am not going to hold fast to it in the face of every conceivable scenario in life.
But I still hold it as a blanket rule in as many situations as I can because I want the people I love to be as free as possible. I have friends who associate with people I don’t like or who don’t like me. It does not bother me. Besides, do you want someone to be your friend because you’ve restricted their options or because they are genuinely fond of you?
Sure, there are situations in life where maintaining a relationship above all else isn’t wise. We have to know where our loyalties lie, and if someone badly hurt one of your loved ones, it may not be the right move to keep them in your life.
However, I do not understand why the friends and associations of strangers should be of major concern and importance to us. I do understand the argument for why this might be a concern in an activist group. I get why people feel the need to hold ideological purity tests and why they might be concerned that certain people considered to be associated with their movement garner attention. Believe me, I have heard it all, and I know the arguments are given in earnest. But I disagree. And, on a personal level, I do not understand and am repelled by the impulse to police others in this way.
The fact that people feel entitled to exert this level of control on others because of shared activism is why I try to remain as independent as possible and not be defined by any particular activist group. The people and groups that I work with have been by invite. I’ve never asked to join anything and I remain on a voluntary basis because I genuinely like them.
If you do not like who I am friends with, then don’t work with me. It’s as simple as that. And if you still object because you think I reflect badly on our “community” or “movement” or whatever other word you want to use to pretend we have a connection that entitles you to dictate my associations, then my only suggestion to you is to ignore me and do better. If you think a person like me shouldn’t be listened to when it comes to issues that we both care about, then offer a better alternative. I promise I won’t step on your toes.
Or you can put your time and energy into convincing others to change their mind about me. Fair enough. I can’t stop you but I won’t do the same to you.
I realize my views will make no sense to some people. As I ran this by a trusted confidant, she pointed out that our associations reflect on us, and therefore it makes sense to judge others by their associations. I can understand this point of view and I can agree that the company you keep, on the whole, often says something about you.
The problem is, on a case-by-case basis, you never truly know the reasons why someone chooses to be friends with another person. Maybe they bitterly disagree on an issue but choose to accept it about each other to keep a good relationship. Maybe they have been through something together you know nothing about that keeps them in each other’s lives. And maybe you don’t know either person as well as you think you do and your assumptions about them as individuals and about their relationship are completely wrong.
I’ve also noticed that the people who are quickest to go after someone for their associations and who can change their mind about you on a whim are also the first to cry about a lack of loyalty and solidarity for themselves. They want to have friends that will stick by them but they attack that characteristic in others when it is directed at someone they think it shouldn’t be.
At the end of the day, I am a libertarian at heart, particularly in my personal life. I have spent enough of my life walking on eggshells and feeling surveilled and controlled. I won’t do it to others. I also don’t think I am best suited to tell others who to be friends and associate with. And that’s why I won’t accept others doing it to me.
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