Treasonous Friendship

This term was originally introduced as part of Love Boldly’s mission, “We will not permit personal or communal loyalties to ideology, labels, or tribes to prevent us from befriending each other.” A common outcome of high-quality dialogue is the emergence of a tangible level of affection across the most profound of divides. More often than not, participants come away liking each other more, even while retaining deep disagreements. This is evident inElton John & Rush Limbaugh's friendship, or the account ofGeorge W. Bush calling Bill Clinton after his surgery to check up on him:  “What do your doctors say?  Are you sore?  How much can you exercise?  Are you using your treadmill?”

Justice Ruth Bater Ginsburg and Anton Scalia - “not typical in contemporary American politics for people to be both ideological adversaries and close personal friends.

Whether celebrity or not, these “unlikely bedfellows” tend to leave positive ripples among their respective communities who see them with both suspicion and hope.  This includes John Marks and Craig Detweileracross the Red Blue Divide, Bob Millet and Greg Johnson across the Baptist-Mormon divide, andgay activist Shane Windmeyer and Chick-filet CEO Dan Cathy.

The benefits of these kinds of “treasonous friendships” are more than just touchy feely – and have everything to do about whether we can learn anything from our differences. In Walter Lippman’s classic 1939 article The Indispensable Opposition he argues that democracy itself depends deeply on the presence of enough space for people to hear out and learn from their political opponents.

As some of the authors like Jacob Hess and Phil Neisser have found, especially when trust and affection reach a point where people are able to begin directly questioning and really challenging each other - that’s when it really gets fun!