On a Sign of the Times

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(The following situation is real, but I changed the names)

I first met Lee in 1972 – probably somewhere between January and April of my freshman year in college. Lee was visiting my dorm neighbor and friend, Rob from his hometown. Lee, a year older than Rob and me, was about to finish his Associate Degree at a community college, so he was looking for a place to continue his education and earn his Bachelor’s Degree. He joined us in September 1972, which would start a long friendship between us.

Upon graduation, he returned to northeast Ohio, and I landed in southwest Ohio – but we stayed in touch. Not many years later, he came to the Cincinnati area looking for a new job. We lived on opposite sides of the metropolitan area, but we stayed in contact by phone with frequent conversations.

Lee is a kind man – not one to get in trouble. Describing him as “straight-laced” may be an understatement – family-man, religious, no alcohol, a non-smoker, empathetic in his way, and willing to help others in his circle. He’s stubborn and opinionated. His voice resonates with confidence and being knowledgeable, which also means he provides ample opportunities to discover that if bullshit was music, he would be a one-man symphony orchestra.

Besides personal character, interest in sports and politics served as a bonding agent. Both of us love baseball and its rich history. Who knows how many trivia questions about the national pastime we’ve bounced off each other – or the countless conversations about recent great plays we saw on ESPN Sportscenter.

On the other hand, we have sports-related differences. Through good times and bad times, I am loyal to my teams – whereas Lee switches allegiances based on his conveniences. He’s also quite the homer. Every autumn he would ask who I wanted to win baseball’s World Series, and I would always answer, the Reds. He would remind me the Reds aren’t in the series, so I would remind him then I didn’t care. In time, he stopped asking.

Sports, politics, and no matter the topic, his opinionated nature allows him to make ridiculous statements. Sharing them here is not the point. Lee makes so many predictions that even one of his family members refers to him as a “Shotgun Nostadamas” who hopes one comes true so he can boast.

Almost 50 years of friendship is odd for us because of our differences. I grew up in a rural area – he, in a metropolitan suburb. I grew up in a multi-national family – he, in a traditional white American family.

I, a traveler – he, a homebody. I, a doer of a variety of entertainment activities and interests outside the home – he, still a homebody. He has two kids – I have none.

I raised a Catholic now a Lutheran – he, a Southern Baptist. I, with a science background and one who understands what science is and how it works – he, a cafeteria scientist who picks and chooses what he believes primarily based on his religious and political views.

We have had our share of good discussions about current events through the years. Politically, sometimes we were on the same side of issues – other times not. There is no question in my mind that every person’s view evolves. When we met in college, we were both Democrats – but of different forms. Today, neither one of us identifies with the Dems, but we are far apart. I, an authentic moderate independent – he, a consumer of the party Kool-Aid and a Trump apologist. I call him a political hack.

I, a believer in the potential of oneness that humanity can be and that the majority of people in the world are good – he, unquestionably the most racist person I know regarding skin color, religion, nationality, and sexual orientation.

Being a reflective type, I will also point the finger at myself for part of the blame for my current feeling. While I would challenge him on sports and political issues, I very seldom challenged him on his prejudices regarding people. Looking back, I regret that choice.

With head-on issues such as President Trump’s actions and divisive nature, George Floyd and social justice, COVID-19’s multitude of impacts, an election year, and more, life today is challenging.

I haven’t talked to Lee in several months and a future conversation is not on my radar. I’ve deleted his name from my Contacts list – but I know his number – and no, I haven’t blocked him.

He texted me recently, but I ignored/did not answer because I saw it as one of his stupid sports statements. But what will I do if he calls or texts again? Time will tell.

The bottom line is simple. Is he a person that I want to associate with these days? Is the situation worth ending a 48-year friendship? For me, the answers are simple because they revolve around the fact that Lee is a science-denying self-proclaimed know-it-all who is a Trump apologist and arrogant bigot. Besides, I have enough divisiveness in my life because we live in challenging times – but challenging times require challenging decisions to do the right thing.