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Can We Be Friends?

Can We Be Friends?

An Interview With Two Friends of Differing Political Views 

By Ashley Herber 

At a time when there seems to be so much animosity between different political parties, it is important to set aside our differences and find common ground. Two Walla Walla University students illustrate this point by discussing their political views and how they have remained friends despite their differences. 

Though politics may divide us, friendships must unite us. Photo by Pixabay.  

Sydney Michalenko is a sophomore social work major from Colorado who enjoys reading and baking, and identifies herself as a social democrat. [1] Andrew Irvine is a sophomore business major from Walla Walla who enjoys skiing, backpacking, boating, and is more right leaning. [2] 

The two became friends when Michalenko roomed with Irvine’s sister her freshman year. Both students consider themselves politically active and keep up with current politics. They also both voted in the recent presidential election.  

Michalenko encourages people to be respectful of other people’s political views. Picture by Sydney Michalenko. 

Michalenko explained that to her, being a social democrat means that she wants more funding for programs that invest in people, like education. Michalenko said that she also supports many human rights movements such as racial equality and LGBTQ+ rights.  

When asked why she holds her political views, Michalenko said, “When I came to college, I learned that 53% of Americans live paycheck-to-paycheck. I think that people should live more comfortably, and I see all of these people who are struggling to get by while the top 1% keep skyrocketing in wealth and aren’t paying their fair share of taxes. I wish people could make more money and I wish college was more accessible to people.”  

Irvine said that his family and where he grew up played important roles in his political views, but that he has learned to research issues on his own so he can come to informed conclusions on political matters.  

Irvine. Irvine does not always agree with Michalenko, but he doesn’t let that stop their friendship. Picture by Andrew Irvine.

Irvine explained, “After the research, I usually decide with the more conservative side on the issues that matter the most to me because that’s what democracy is, choosing someone to represent you based on what matters the most to you.”  

When asked about her thoughts on the January 6 riot at the Capitol, Michalenko said, “I think it was a very sad day for America and it’s embarrassing.” 

Michalenko further expressed wishes that Trump had not commented on the results of the election in the way he did. She hopes that America can overcome this political divide and she is thankful that “we have our constitution and laws in place to prevent an overthrow of our government and to protect us.”  

Neither Michalenko nor Irvine were happy about the coup attempt at the capitol. Photo by Pixabay.

When asked the same question, Irvine answered, “I don’t like violence. I love the United States and I’m proud to be an American, and what happened at the Capitol is anything but American. The legacy of America is peaceful protests, not storming capitol buildings.”  

Both Irvine and Michalenko reported having friends on both sides of the political spectrum, with Irvine commenting, “I would say I may have more friends with the same beliefs as me because that’s most of the people I grew up with. I don’t think being friends with someone who has different political beliefs is a deal-breaker with friendship, because there may be a ton of other interests that you may have in common.”  

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Irvine continued, “Syd and I discuss politics quite often. The conversation usually starts with one of us sending a TikTok or tweet.”  

When Irvine and Michalenko discuss politics, they each try to convince the other of their side (which never works), but Michalenko explained, “We’re generally pretty calm about it. We have different views on things, but it’s never resulted in us not talking. We’re both pretty respectful generally.”  

Irvine believes that “one of the leading factors in this polarization is people refusing to try and see opposing arguments from others’ point of view.”  

Michalenko advises people to listen to their friends’ opinions with an open mind. She believes that the key to staying friends while holding different political views is having mature, open conversations and remembering that politics does not have to control your friendships.  

Irvine said, “I think it’s a good idea to be friends with someone with a different political stance than you because it forces you to go outside your comfort zone. It helps you see the other side of the spectrum.”  

Citations 

  1. Interview with Sydney Michalenko, 1/13/2021. 
  1. Email with Andrew Irvine, 1/13/2021. 
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