Opinion » Bill Cope

Defriended

Here's what happened with you and me

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This is how it felt to me—I was carrying your bucket. I picture it as one of those metal ones, three-gallon capacity or so—the sort of bucket one would get at a farm and garden store. To my mind's eye, it is grayish-blue, like the galvanized steel nipple buckets my brothers and I used to feed calves. But the galvanization wore off. The bottom was rusted and weak. Before Nov. 8, I didn't see the corrosion.

It was filled with sand. If others share this metaphor with me, they might choose something else—perhaps even fresh, warm milk, for those who have a dairy farm in their background and know what a nipple bucket is. For me, it was sand. Fine, dry sand. And the quantity of sand it held was the measure of respect I had for you. There are varying levels of sand in the buckets I carry for each person in my life. Some have more, some less. But the sand in your bucket was substantial. More, not less. We wouldn't have been friends had I not had a substantial respect for you. I never thought much about it until lately, but I'd have to say after what's happened, that this is how I've made, and held, friends all of my life. Gotta have respect. It comes first, respect, or none of the rest can follow.

So I was carrying your bucket—didn't mind the weight because those extra pounds only meant I had more respect for you than most—and then the bottom dropped out. I can't say it happened on Nov. 8. In the days that followed, as the nightmare we've entered has taken ever-more horrifying shape, the bottom has dropped out of a lot of the buckets I've carried. No, I can't pin down the exact moment it happened. But once I knew for certain you had voted for that vile son of a bitch, I could never un-know it. That's when I realized your bucket no longer weighed anything. That it was empty.

•••

In the past four months, I have learned I care more for my country than I'd ever realized. I am not by nature a flag waver, a dogma thumper, a—what I consider to be the most meaningless word in the American lexicon—"patriot." But I've always held an abiding trust in the eventual triumph of both American decency and American democracy. Even as wrong and unjust as some Americans can be, I have believed those wrongs and injustices are eventually corrected by the kindness of better people manifesting their benevolence through the ballot. I have believed that given enough time, information and goodwill, the majority of us will ultimately choose what is right for everyone, not just ourselves.

Now, I'm not so sure. Not when a person I had respected and called a friend could do something so cruel as what you did in November.

Truth is, it's not that I fear Trump so much, or regard him and his spreading taint as insurmountable or irreversible. No, it's not the rise of yet another shameless monster to the heights of power that troubles me as much as the people—you—who put him there. Trump will fall, disgraced and ruined like shameless monsters always fall. Of that, I'm convinced.

But you will still be here. How can you ever be trusted to not do it again?

•••

I must assume in your own way, you're as disappointed with me as I am with you. Maybe you always thought I was a bigger man than that. But, no. I'm not. I am not a forgiving man. I am not a man who can shrug and say, Oh well, what's past is past. I'm not a man who is apt to "Get over it." Not when getting over it means accepting this cancer in my country's blood.

Besides, I always thought you were a smarter person than that. I always thought you were more moral than that—that you had too much integrity to do what you did. You knew everything I knew going into that election. If you didn't, it's because you neglected your civic duty to pay attention. I always thought you to be a better citizen than that.

Maybe it's conceivable that the gathering storm around his Russian entanglements slipped by you, somehow. Same with the mutual admiration between him and the stinking racist subculture now corroding the bottom out of our nation. Virtually every other person in my circle knew about those connections and was talking about them long before Election Night. But maybe—just maybe—it escaped your attention. Or maybe you sluffed it off as heated campaign rhetoric.

Still, you can hardly have missed his obscene mockery of women, of the disabled, of migrants and McCain and minorities and even his fellow candidates. To have not noticed how unstable and disgusting his entire persona is—his entire life is—can only mean you were either willfully and perversely not noticing it, or that you are, in ways I'd never noticed, more unstable and disgusting than I could have ever believed about you.

Either way, I can't help but feel relieved you will no longer be part of my life. With that one vote you cast, as small a decision as it may seem to you, you became part and parcel to this new, hateful and disheartening reality. I can't look at you anymore without seeing that truth about you. I can't un-know that truth about you.

The bucket is empty. Your bucket. It is weightless now. And, as it no longer has a bottom, it can never hold sand again. Not mine, at any rate.

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