I’m rather down today after formally ending a friendship that went all the way back to childhood. Normally, I would feel it was better to simply fade away, but in this case I felt I had to draw a very clear line. After a couple of attempts to try to maintain the friendship despite our deepening differences, there was a online conversation back and forth about a news story that troubled me. The way the comments were framed, the information that had to be ignored to do so, the transparent rhetorical strategy – all of it illustrated a deeply problematic character in her husband. My intuition was screaming alert.
I did some research. In doing so, I came across a truckload of information that made the friendship impossible to continue, and even made me wonder if there had ever really been a friend there at all. Just following the thread of this one person through the maze brought a deeper level of understanding about how certain things are structured right now in this country of ours. I feel like I had a brush with the-opposite-of-greatness. Horrible. It’s not that I didn’t already have some indication that her husband was a bit of a jerk, but I was able to put it off to differences in political opinion and in “I guess you had to be there” allowances – for as long as I didn’t have too many details. As a last gesture of honor toward our shared past, I won’t illustrate with all the links, and funding sources, and results. Over time, I’m sure others will do so, and in ways more effective (I hope) than anything that I could do. History will be the judge.
I have no idea what could have possessed the person I thought I knew to drink the kool-aid on these matters, not only politically but also in terms of some rather basic ethics. I’m bewildered and deeply disappointed. The girl I knew could have chosen any path. What an incredible waste.
Dear X – This isn’t about the back and forth on the dueling couple, but the responses I saw troubled me in a number of different ways. I’ve had a bad feeling for a while, really ever since I saw your husband disallow you from eating some dish at the reunion. I knew he was a right-wing academic, but I also knew that you guys had supported Y in his music – and figured that he must have another side to him. Yes, we disagree on politics, but our friendship is more important – I let it go.
Until now, I really didn’t understand the level of corruption that was possible to maintain while still claiming an academic position. It would be one thing if the problem were merely a set of political differences, as I thought. Unfortunately what I’m seeing is much, much more than that. It’s amazing what you can find when you have a thread to follow. I wrote about seven pages last night detailing it, but you’re an intelligent woman and I have to conclude that you not only know but also approve.
I actually believe in intellectual integrity, and don’t think that universities should be the location for sham research, paid-for-comment faculty, and political think-tanks – but rather for independent research that is peer-reviewed. I have no idea how you could have married someone who actually specializes in undermining academic integrity and in the distortion of public information, and who is part of the corruption of the political process for private gain (regardless of citizen/consumer rights or protections, regardless of casualties). I’m not just theoretically opposed to the content, but I actually consider this to be unethical – even criminal – behavior, and want nothing to do with it in any way.
I can’t see a way to justify trying to maintain a friendship with someone who obviously participates in – and approves of – all the corrupt practices and money trails I’ve discovered. I hope that at least your chosen path has brought you something that you wanted badly enough to justify it to yourself.
I’ll just remember you as the talented, intelligent and graceful girl I once knew, and grieve for her. Further communications from either of you are not welcome.
So now it’s done, and I feel like it was just the first step in a process of disentanglement for me. Do I have any white sage? I actually feel – somehow – tainted. I know that people change, and that there are always existential choices to be made. I’ve made mistakes myself. Perhaps I’m still making them. I try to have a caring center and to offer compassion to others. But there’s a limit, and this is toxic at a level that I haven’t been this close to before.
I don’t hate my old friend. I don’t even hate her horrible and corrupt husband. But I won’t allow that kind of thing to be part of my life, nor part of my personal set of friends and associates. I can’t live with this knowledge and still call her “friend.”
Corruption and fraud in the cause of greed can succeed for a while, but it will always be discovered and judged, even if it takes a hundred years. Those who participate in it still have to live with the knowledge of the hurt they’ve caused, the casualties of their destructiveness. Deep down, we all know the truth of it.
So long, farewell, Auf wiedersehen… good-bye.