We don’t have to stay friends
Stefan Punongbayan (The Philippine Star) - May 6, 2016 - 10:00am

MANILA, Philippines - And continuing Splender’s late ‘90s alt-rock hit, “Let’s pretend to be enemies.” I have a hunch we’ll end up as such, but I could be wrong.

It takes a bold measure of resilience to scroll through all the digital toxicity with a straight face and manage to be in beso terms IRL with your Facebook friends. After all, the ‘unfriend’ option is just a click away. This is the part where I congratulate myself for being successfully fake. I think I deserve a medal for putting up with all the BS, including my own. You may have to revoke this award soon, though.

Somewhere along my news feed — amidst the stream of propaganda and gratuitous essay competition entries — emerged a “friendly reminder” by COMELEC: “Don’t let a presidential debate injure great friendships. We all have to live with the decision of the people come May 9, and the bets may lose the election, but we don’t have to lose friends because of it.”

Believe me, we may have to, and the pill wouldn’t be too bitter to swallow as you think it would be. Everybody knows that election season is a test of character for both the candidates and the electorates. Forget end-time predictions — this is the true time of reckoning. Given the abysmal choices we have on our ballots, this is the only thing we can thank the election season for.

Pluralism is power

Devise a graph where the Y axis is space and the X denotes time. You’ll eventually find that we exist in an era in this one-horse town where GMRC (or Values Education in some schools) is still slightly unfortunately being taught. I remember being scolded by my high school instructor after a heated debate on contraception: Walang tama o maling opinyon!” It may have defeated the purpose of conducting a debate, but whatever.

It’s high time we got rid of the mindset that anybody’s opinion is just as valid as everyone else’s. Tolerance may be one of the pillars of democracy, but one will inevitably see its flaws when a certain viewpoint fails to hold water. Pit two voices against each other and the informed one reigns supreme—or at least it should. One can only imagine having to live through an ill-thought singular opinion of any given sector for the next six years.

Oh, well. Such is democracy.

Crossing the line

There is only a road so thin between what’s political and what’s personal that it’s almost not taken, except when one is forced to exchange pleasantries with a political (and therefore personal) frenemy. The thing is, you’re a grown-up, Harry. Peaceful coexistence is imperative in the adult world, and it’s not exactly a safe space for people as special as you. Besides, there’s always that option to scream into a pillow in your room under the staircase.

That said, the fact remains that the personal is political. From a ‘60s feminist battlecry, it has morphed into common sense among everybody who’s politically invested. It’s Miranda Priestly reminding you that the way you conduct yourself, the privileges you’ve grown accustomed to, your moral compass, every choice you make, and even your intrapersonal communication have already been decided for you by the seemingly monolithic ideological, social, and material conditions you’ve been born into. It’s all about power relations after all.

The political is also personal. Picture having this delightfully sexist kabarkada who is almost always the life of inuman parties. Enter Manny Pacquiao and his not-so-delightful statements against LGBTs. Now, your friend just happens to support every bigoted word that comes out of the world-class boxer and incredibly dysfunctional congressman’s mouth, and you just happen to be gay. Five beers later, your douchey friend declares his support for Bongbong Marcos. As someone who comes from a family of martial law survivors, would you really want to be associated with somebody who supports a candidate who has always been complicit to the atrocities of Bagong Lipunan?

Congeniality is overrated. Tolerance can only encourage so much willpower to accept the things radically different from your cognitive bias. It’s human to refuse to have something to do with people whose political views are the diametrical opposite of your basic principles. You don’t have to be nice to everybody if you don’t want to, especially if you think his/her vote is a vote against your rights.

Yet, I still see a glimmer of hope. So many things can happen between now and then, between the 2016 election season and two people coming to a political crossroad. Until then, as a dear friend said (whom I personally hope not to lose to partisan differences), “Let’s burn the bridge when we get there, and only when we get there.”

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Tweet the author @Watdahel_Marcel.

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