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  • Extremely American

On Broken Friendships [Editorial: Philosophy]

On Broken Friendships

October 24, 2023: One warm, early-1980s weekday afternoon, I was walking east on Delancey Street in New York City’s Lower East Side. At that time, as were many areas of the city, Delancey was kind of rundown. I don’t remember what brought me to that out-of-the-way part of town. I was probably going to visit one of the kids who had been in my group at a Fresh Air Fund summer camp, at which I was a counselor.

Unlike today’s post-modern times, in which, aided by the Net and phones, relabeled “sex workers” ply their trade more discreetly, prostitutes of that era were commonly visible at outdoor locations. On Delancey that day, an attractive, late-20s Puerto Rican woman with mid-length hair, snug slacks and a colorful, short-sleeved blouse matched my sidewalk stride and grasped my right elbow with her soft hand. Sounding vaguely like Rosie Perez would later sound, she said, “You and me should go on a date.”

We walked a few steps together before I said, “I can’t. I’m already late.” I could have added that I was broke, which was also true. But saying so might have been perceived as disrespectful. Sometimes you don’t owe the world a full explanation. And sometimes the world doesn’t want to hear one.

As I moved forward without her, I looked back over my right shoulder. Giving me a final chance, she implored, “Let’s just talk about it. Let’s discuss it!”

I suspect that this woman’s life presented serious challenges. But she didn’t seem depressed and she wasn’t drunk or drugged. Her irrepressible response made me chuckle; in particular, her use of, and emphasis on, “discuss” struck me as deliberately incongruous. I briefly wondered how such a discussion would go. What might we say to each other regarding the proposed “date?”

The discussion might have been more interesting than the date itself.

Be that as it may, decades later, when I want to go somewhere or do something that my wife doesn’t, I say, “Let’s just talk about it. Let’s discuss it!”

I’ve often thought about what makes people friends. Friendships are commonly based on physical characteristics; people tend to fall in with people who look roughly like them. Much of the time, friendships arise from enjoying the same activities, e.g., listening to the same music, wearing the same clothes, rooting for the same sports team or abusing the same substances. Sometimes, people become friends because they’ve shared an experience, e.g, school time or working or playing sports together. People often like each other because they find the same things funny. Especially strong friendships can develop from some show of support during a time of need.

But no matter what their basis or origin, friendships—and close relationships with selected kin—entail exchanging perceptions of the world and life. In so doing, friends influence each other’s thinking, even without trying to. Listening to friends or favored family members, or listening to ourselves talk to them, can also help us to figure out what’s true. Or at least what feels good to believe or say.

I’ve spent countless hours swapping ideas with close family members or people I considered friends: on walks, riding trains or buses, under day or night skies, at bars, all-night diners or the dashboard confessional, et al. Most of these discussions were one-to-one. Others involved three or, at most, four people. Beyond four people—and not just any four people—serious discussions don’t get traction.

These rap sessions have encompassed a very wide range of topics; almost nothing was out-of-bounds. You’ve had these talks. You know.

As have many of you, over the past 43 months I’ve lost and/or abandoned a series of friendships and spent less time with some relatives due to disagreements regarding the Covid “mitigation.” This isn’t unprecedented. In life, relationships begin, grow and thrive. But inevitably, over time, people leave schools or jobs, relocate, develop new interests, or just find people they like better. One must continually make new friends to replace the old. So again here.

Yet, Coronamania presented a new reason for friendships to end. The majority, who bought into the overreaction, decided that if you didn’t support lockdowns, school closures, masks, shots, and massive government giveaways, you were evil and not worth talking to. They wouldn’t discuss, in any depth, the proper response to a respiratory virus or the social, economic, and psychological effects of such responses. Instead, they firmly believed and naively obeyed the media and government.

They were also driven by peer pressure. They adopted what they perceived to be the majority view among those whom they knew. In so doing, they conflated the emotional protection of the herd with reason and truth. Feeling empowered by the mob around them, they peremptorily supported the senseless, destructive mitigation. They haughtily refused to consider the perspectives of those who, like me, disagreed with the crisis narrative or the mitigation dogma.

They didn’t even want to discuss it.

Those who know me know that I read a lot, did well in school, ask a lot of questions, like to weigh ideas comprehensively and without bias, listen well, very seldom get loud or insult anyone, and can make people laugh. Pre-March, 2020, people initiated and participated for hours in countless one-to-ones with me about themes large and small. And medium.

Nonetheless, almost none of my friends were willing to engage in serious dialogue with me about “The Pandemic.” Many recipients of my emails told me to stop sending essays I had written, or they just blocked me entirely. Mistakenly thinking it would make me feel guilty and change my mind, atheists called me “selfish” and “a bad/phony Christian.” The latter characterization was, to them, triply satisfying: it felt good to simultaneously denigrate me, my faith, and others who shared it.

Those who canceled me ruled out the possibility that I might present some unknown facts or previously unconsidered ideas that might have shown that the Corona response was a massive overreaction. In life, multiple people have told me that I think outside the box.

Perhaps some who canceled me thought that I might create some cognitive dissonance.

But most who aggressively dismissed what I had to say told me I wasn’t an “expert.” They embraced the hysteria, ignored what they saw in daily life, suspended common sense and either didn’t know, or forgot, basic Biology. They also ignored all of the damage that the lockdowns, closures, masks, shots, and spending were causing. They trusted their TVs more than they trusted reason.

Instead of talking about the Covid response as they had spoken with me about the broad range of topics that friends and family members normally discuss, e.g.: personal problems, philosophical issues, or whether or not they liked a given celebrity, vacation spot or cuisine, friends and family avoided dialogue of any depth about the biggest, bizarrest disruption of lives that any of us had ever seen. While the Covid elephant loomed in the room, I lost interest in small talk.

The unwillingness to talk about the Covid response contravened contemporary norms. Our society has always purportedly valued the free exchange of ideas. And for the past few decades, our society has purportedly embraced “diversity.” Colleges select students and governments, corporations and NGOs deliberately choose employees from different demographic groups. Ostensibly, doing so facilitates the exchange of different perspectives on topics affecting the public interest. Considering diverse viewpoints is supposed to enable those with culture-bound blind spots to see the world differently and, consequently, to appropriately modify mistaken and damaging perceptions and practices.

But while our culture exalts free expression and apparent ethnic, racial, religious and sexual-identity diversity, it strongly discourages diversity of opinion. In place of open-minded inquiry, facts and logic, schools, politicians and news commentators recited fake stats and PC tropes and canceled those who dared to question those notions. Coronamania dissenters, including many who were public health PhDs or MDs, were widely censored by governments and were shouted down—often electronically—by friends and family members.

Could thoughtful discussions between friends and family regarding Covid policies have changed minds? Probably not. Until they perceive that popular sentiment is moving in a different direction, people seldom alter their views; egos get in the way. And fear is hard to allay. Many people feared “the virus.” I think that many of the Coronamanic actually liked being scared; they found “The Pandemdic(!)” exciting or a good excuse to skip their commutes. But more than the virus, they feared being in the minority and having others dislike them.

Regardless of low persuasive yield, it would have been interesting to hear more people answer such questions as:

  1. What makes this virus “novel?”

  2. At what other time(s) in human history have healthy people been quarantined?

  3. Of all the people you know, how many under 75 and not sick or obese have died from Covid-19?

  4. How many old, sick people normally die each day?

  5. Did hospitals extend or, instead, shorten lives?

  6. Were hospitals really being overrun by Covid patients?

  7. Why did the two-week lockdown “to flatten the curve” last much longer?

  8. Won’t spending $10 trillion on the Corona response ultimately impoverish most Americans?

  9. Why do the most locked-down, masked-up states have the highest Covid death rates?

  10. Did it make sense that people had to wear masks to enter restaurants but could remove these while they ate and chatted for an hour?

  11. How many other restrictions, such as travel bans and quarantines, made no sense?

  12. Why did most American public schools close for in-person learning for over a year while European and African public schools, and many American private schools, were open since September 2020 without causing harm?

  13. Why didn’t death tolls increase sharply after BLM protests, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally, the Trump rallies, and during the college football season, as the media and various “experts” had predicted?

  14. What has Fauci said since January 2020 that has demonstrated useful knowledge about Covid and how to react to it in an effective, socially constructive manner?

  15. Do you know what a 40-cycle threshold PCR test is and how using it has inflated ostensible Coronavirus infection and death tolls?

  16. Why should someone with a 99.9 percent —or greater—chance of surviving a Coronavirus infection without treatment take an experimental injection that has failed on a mass scale and killed or injured hundreds of thousands of people?

  17. Why do governments and colleges still mandate vaxxes when these shots have clearly failed, as promised, to stop infection and spread?

  18. If masks are effective, why are lockdowns and vaxxes needed and if the vaxxes are effective, why do we need masks?

  19. What evidence shows that Coronavirus vaxxes won’t cause long-term harm?

  20. Is the harm done, via lockdowns and closures, to those under 50, who were never at risk and who lost formative, memorable life experiences, worth it?

Neither friends, family members, nor public health bureaucrats were willing to answer such questions or to justify the plainly silly and destructive Covid mitigation policies. I was willing to answer any questions they had for me. But the few who questioned me ghosted me after I responded.

Unsurprisingly, it turned out that I knew more about the ineffectiveness, and harms, of the NPIs and shots than did the experts. It wasn’t hard. I sought the truth and the public’s welfare, not power, fame, political advantage, or money.

Those who avoided dialogue were so sure they were right about the Covid response that they saw themselves as above any fray surrounding that subject. But by running with the Corona-crazed mob, they’ve been wrong about everything.

And by being wrong, they’ve created a Hell of a mess. Because they were unwilling to discuss it.

Reposted from Substack


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