Have you ever had a friend who greatly embarrassed you? I have. We had absolutely nothing in common. She was more than ten years younger than me. (That’s not really relevant.) She was extremely irresponsible; she was a hypocrite and a liar; she was highly promiscuous; she dressed like a prostitute, wore way too much make-up and insisted on having the most godawful hairstyle you’ve seen since Hee Haw. And on top of all that, our tastes in music, movies and just about everything else were completely different.
And yet we could talk. Whenever we were in the same room conversations just spontaneously happened. We talked about pop culture, co-workers, food, what was new at K-mart or the mall and all manner of trivia. Sometimes I made tentative attempts to reform her. She would go into her sweet-little-thing routine (“I know. You’re right but I can’t help it. It’s the way I am.“) and then we’d move on to something else. Once in a while she would ask for advice and then ignore it. We gracefully disagreed on almost everything. I guess that’s one thing we did have in common: the ability to gracefully disagree.
I can’t say whether or not we would still be friends if I hadn’t moved halfway across the country. The thought occurred to me almost daily that, for the sake of my own reputation, I should distance myself from this girl. But she talked to me while other people whom I respected more and with whom I had more in common ignored me like a useless piece of furniture.
Friendships are frequently incomprehensible. People do often have friends that are completely different from themselves. That’s why I can’t hold Barak Obama’s friendship with Reverend Wright against him.
There are other things that I can hold against Obama. I can hold it against him that he at first said that he was not present when Reverend Wright made his “controversial remarks” and then admitted that he was present. I can hold his position on the war against him. I can hold his health care plan against him, even though I don’t know anything about it yet because I know that any kind of plan the government comes up with is going to be ridiculously complicated. There are also some things that I cannot hold against him but that bother me. But there’s nothing that makes me think he would necessarily be a worse president than Hillary Clinton or John McCain.
We do not choose our friends nor do they choose us. We just cross paths with other people and once in a while something clicks. That’s not to say that we can’t judge people by the company they keep because my instincts still tell me that, generally, we can. But we should not judge a person based on a few remarks made by just one friend and we should not judge the friend based on just those few remarks. People are complicated. Some very good people have some really asinine opinions and serious character flaws. What do we know about Reverend Wright aside from those now infamous remarks? And what do we know about Barak Obama’s other friends? I can guarantee that the ones who have no controversial opinions or embarrassing habits will never make the news.
* * *
While I’m on this subject, here’s an excellent post, sort of an inside view you might say.