Politics shouldn’t end friendships

3

To the Editor:

The problem of Alan Dershowitz’s social life has garnered not only local but national media attention. It is collateral damage caused by Trump’s election. The emotional intensity aroused by Trump among those who fawn over him, and those who despise him, has soared to a level which is off the charts.

Rush Limbaugh is the only living American who has injected into our society more of the poison of hostility, suspicion, paranoia, anger, and outright hatred than Donald Trump. Rush had a big head start. For years he has exhorred his listeners to abhor and demonize “liberals,” “leftists,” members of the “elite,” and Democrats. But Trump is gaining, and if Trump can stay in office through 2024, he will pass Rush.

Why has Dershowitz ruffled so many feathers? He did vote for Hillary, not Trump. His big sin, apparently, is that he has propounded, and aggressively promoted, a provocative interpretation of the power, privileges, and immunities given by our Constitution to all American presidents, not just Trump alone.

His views are anathema to most of the members of his social circle. I find his views counterintuitive, and quite unpalatable.

The people best qualified to respond to Professor Dershowitz are other eminent constitutional scholars, on law school faculties or elsewhere. I hope that few of them would endorse his interpretation of our Constitution.

I wholeheartedly empathize with someone who recoils from Trump as loathsome and pathological, and who finds it mind-boggling that a friend could support, even admire, a man like Trump.

Nevertheless, I absolutely reject the view that Dershowitz ‘s friends, or anyone else, should break off a friendship because they disagree, however strongly, with a friend’s political opinions.

This will only add to the antagonisms and resentments that plague our polarized society.

I will never fully recover from the shock received when 62 million Americans voted for Trump. But we must not write them off as irredeemable. I want very much to believe — and will extend them the benefit of the doubt — that the great majority of these voters are themselves people of decent moral character.

(Think of the alternative hypothesis. What would life in this nation be like if 62 million people living among us were as mendacious, dishonorable, and devoid of ethical standards as Donald Trump ?)

I have a close relative who voted for Trump. I am acquainted with several people who I’m pretty certain voted for Trump. (We don’t discuss politics, so the question has never arisen.) I will remain on friendly terms with these people.

As for anyone out there in Chilmark, or elsewhere on this Island, who may have turned a cold shoulder to Dershowitz, I hope they will reconsider. If he has been your friend, keep him your friend.

That said, I must note that it did put my teeth on edge to see Professor Dershowitz appear on the “Sean Hannity Show” — since I consider Hannity one of the most repellent human beings I have ever seen on a TV screen.

How could you, Alan? Well, perhaps even Sean Hannity, when off-camera, has some redeeming and positive characteristics.

R.E.L. Knight
West Tisbury