Can you be friends with someone who voted for Stephen Harper?

Last week, a letter to Dan Savage in NOW magazine caught Your Working Girl’s eye.  (Believe her when she tells you her eye catches a great many sorts of things.)  The letter to Mr. Savage, an internationally syndicated sex columnist and gay rights activist, was from a ‘monagamish’ bi-sexual couple who ‘fool around’ with similarly oriented folks.  Their question?  They found another couple perfect in every way (‘bi, hot and intelligent’) but the couple was, sadly, Republicans.  Could a hook up ever work?

Though more intimate in nature, our swinger’s question raises a few points Your Working Girl would like to talk about.

Can you disagree with your friends or colleagues and still keep them?  Can you raise ‘issues’ with them and still be friends? Do we stay quiet for fear of losing them?  How do you fight fair?  Could you ever be friends with someone who supported Rob Ford?  Someone who doesn’t believe in climate change?  Someone who voted for Stephen Harper?

Your Working Girl’s conundrum was more intellectual than, well……. physical.  So she sought out the wisdom of her own advice columnist and rang up her dear friend, Judy Rebick, last week to arrange a time to have a cup of tea.  Judy’s alter ego “Auntie” once parceled out much-appreciated personal and political advice on, a progressive online e-magazine.

What would she think?  Could we all stay friends through the revolution?

Having worked with Judy throughout some of the toughest fights in the women’s movement (and believe Your Working Girl when she says they were fights) and living to tell the tale, Your Working Girl knew first hand that Ms Rebick was as good in battle as any.  If you had to pick sides — and generally speaking in politics, sides have to be picked — Your Working Girl was happy to throw in her lot with Judy.

Your Working Girl arrived for tea at the appointed hour on a brilliantly sunny afternoon.  Sitting on Judy’s balcony and taking in a Cmdr Hadfield-worthy view, Your Working Girl and Ms Rebick drank tea, snacked on gluten-free blueberry loaf and began a conversation about the slings, arrows and garden shears of outrageous fortune.

It wasn’t long before the pro-choice/anti-abortion battle came up.  And as her Gentle Readers are only too aware, there are few debates that can draw the us and them lines like this one.  Judy had, in fact, become Canada’s activist Joan of Arc when, in 1983 a man wielding garden shears attacked Dr Henry Morgentaler and she blocked the attacker, saving all from gruesome injury.

“But I have to say,” said Judy taking a sip of tea, “some of the stiffest battles were inside the movement.

“After the Morgentaler case was lost in the Ontario Court of Appeal and before we went to Supreme Court, there was a huge fight.

Your Working Girl, ace reporter, perked her ears. “A huge fight?”

“Oh yeah, it was really big,” said Judy, “Morris Manning had represented Henry in the original charge, which we won and then in the appeal which we lost . He had been with Henry the whole way.

“But after the appeal, Morris Manning defended a strikebreaker in Hamilton — not just a regular strikebreaker, but a person who had been quite violent.  The pro-choice coalition, which labour supported, was up in arms. People were furious and wanted Henry to say something, to distance himself from Morris Manning – to work with someone else. But he wouldn’t. His response was well, you know, lawyers are lawyers. You hire them and they work for you. And then they work for someone else. Henry stood up and said ‘enough, I will not be doing what you ask.’

Then he turned to me and said ‘I’d like to speak with you privately.’ ”

“We went into a little area and Henry said, ‘I know I am saying what I am saying because I think I am right.  I know you are saying what you are saying because of the movement and because you think you are right.’ “

” ‘This is okay, he said.  We can disagree.  But what is important to me is our relationship.’

Judy held her tea in her hand, “That shocked me. It never occurred to me that preserving a relationship was even a piece of what I was trying to do.  It was the first time anyone in politics had ever made the relationship a priority.  It’s crazy to say it, but my heart was opened that day. And then he hugged me!  Henry was a very huggy person.  He hugged people a lot. I wasn’t a huggy person then,” she said laughing, “now, I’m a huggy person.

“I began to think about the people on the other side of the abortion debate,” Judy continued,  “and maybe, I thought, if I believed (which I don’t) that human life begins at the moment of conception and if I equated abortion with murder (which I don’t), I’d probably be on the street protesting too. That helped me see the other side and I think when you do that, it makes you a stronger, more effective activist.  It doesn’t weaken you. It makes you stronger.

“Empathy actually improves your debating skills.  So that’s what we have to do now.  We have to make compassion a part of our activist tool kit.  We have to add compassion to the passion we have for our cause.  We have to think about people’s humanity, even when we don’t agree.  It’s more effective.”


PS:  Dan Savage suggested the swinging couple go for it.  You never know he said. You might end up being a positive influence. (Not Mr. Savage’s exact words, but it conveys the gist of the sentiment.)

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  1. James D. Lee says:

    “Compassion with your Passion”. Pretty good advice. I am pretty sure that this is why Judy has been such a mainstay on many “revolutionary” fronts.

  2. Israel Vazquez says:

    All depends how much do you care and want to keep the relationship with that person, and how much of your integrity do you want to keep or give away. there may be issues that are not negotiable and other’s you can keep a middle ground.

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