It’s My Party and I’ll Invite Who I Want To: Navigating Politics and Friendship

This article originally appeared in Patrick Henry High School’s ‘The Patriot Press’ in February 2022. It has been lightly edited for republication.

I’m hosting my birthday party soon, but (duh-duh-duh) one of my friends is not vaccinated (*gasp*). Is it justified to exclude a friend based on her political opinion and how she exercises her bodily autonomy?

My friend could put me, my friends, and my family (all vaccinated) at risk of contracting COVID. While vaccinated individuals are eight times less likely to contract COVID-19 and 25 times less likely to be hospitalized or die from infection, we are still at risk (houstonmethodist.org). 

When I get into a car with my friend driving, I trust her to protect me (and the community) by driving safely. Likewise, I believe my friend is responsible for getting vaccinated in order to keep me (and the community) safe. 

As the party host, I am also liable to keep the rest of my friends healthy. If we do get sick, we could transmit COVID to more people, endangering the community and furthering the pandemic.

For argument’s sake, let’s suppose I disregard the risk to us, the vaccinated (myself, my family, my friends, and my community). I’m still worried about my friend, who is at higher risk of contracting COVID-19 and being hospitalized because of it. 

I’m still worried, even if she isn’t.

At this point, you either think I’m a snowflake who should take the “minimal” risk and have a good time or you think my friend is stupid (or worse) for not getting vaccinated, and why should I spend this amount of time and effort worrying about whether to invite her?

Regardless of the final decision, dilemmas such as these never occurred to me until now. Is this really because of COVID? I recently unfollowed a friend because she supported the Texas abortion ban. I couldn’t look at any of her posts without wondering about her opinions on masking and vaccinations and, by extension, how much she respected others’ wellbeing.

In my opinion, political opinions shouldn’t disrupt friendships. If we share the same values, the relationship should succeed, even if we identify with different political ideologies. Because of the added technicalities of the pandemic and my political socialization, I doubted my friend’s values, so I ceased communication with her.

Perhaps the reason I believe in apolitical relationships is because I grew up in a generally well-balanced, non-partisan household, meaning my mother is Democrat-leaning and my father is Republican-leaning. Despite many heated debates at the dinner table, my parents have enjoyed 19 years of marriage. As their child, I learned to listen to and respect the other side.

Even I, however, who experienced this equilibrium, have been “radicalized” by the lib-conserv-ummm…who is responsible for the change in my political standing? Both groups have contributed to the political atmosphere where one cannot be a “moderate.” 

Neither side listens well to the other, and the lack of common ground translates to our friendships: I know I have started shifting to the left, but I don’t want to leave my friends behind.

Is my radical political standing a product of the hypersensitivity around personal and public safety, or the discovery of my own boundaries and beliefs? The political Grand Canyon that we continue to divide ourselves with? Or the combined weight of these in the tumultuous time at hand?

Never before has it been easier to spot the political preferences of the people around you. 

Look around the room and notice how everyone is wearing their mask: Who isn’t wearing one? Who isn’t covering their nose? Who’s wearing a stupid gaiter? (I know, I know-maybe I’m not as nonpartisan as I believe I am.)

With the introduction of a global pandemic (along with our personal growth), political beliefs have become more prevalent in our daily lives. 

I found common ground with my friends, even if they supported Trump. Because we have discovered our values and seen people’s political leanings, our own ideology impacts our daily life. If my friend doesn’t want to get vaccinated, I have to choose whether to spend time with her. 

Regardless of what I decide, it doesn’t change the fact that politics have infiltrated my personal relationships. This began as a simple question about inviting my friend over and ended as a two-page essay on political divisions! God damn it, why can’t I just have a birthday party?

By Cassie Pataky, Patrick Henry High School