"Anybody can sympathize with the sufferings of a friend, but it requires a very fine nature to sympathize with a friend's success."
― Oscar Wilde
This past week a civic event caused me to see a friend whom I have known since college. He lives in another city in Florida, smaller and more provincial in the 1950s than even Miami, but has recently grown to an important metropolitan area. We shared many good times, chatting in the dorm, visiting each other's homes, knew each other's parents and were true friends. We even tried some cases together, and laughed and told many war stories to each other. We even represented each other in two different cases. We had many mutual friends, our children, although not close, cared and liked each other. During good times and bad we were close. We shared a certain ability to laugh at ourselves.
What do you do with a friend whose underlying prejudices have morphed him into a second-rate Archie Bunker, minus the humor and pathos? So this is rumination on friendship, and most probably, loss of it.
In college, my friend, whom I will now pseudo-name Joseph, dominated conversations with his force of personality and what I thought at the time was his profound wide-ranging knowledge. He was the professor Irwin Corey of the University of Florida. He had an unparalleled ability to bloviate. Successful with women, he objectified them, viewing his sexual exploits as an athletic contest and calling them by a sideways description of their genitalia. Not unlike the Donald. My experience, on the other hand, with women in college was virtually nil, an inherent shyness, insecurity and introversion I was later to overcome. One time, visiting my home, he exposed my father's business partner as a fraud. It was a gutsy, cheeky move, but that never stopped him. My father, incredulous, dismissed the accusation to his own detriment.
Joseph has profoundly changed, now rails about his advanced age and has become aggressively provocative, but without portfolio. Maundering through a litany of biases, insulting those who prefer semi rational discussion he spews hatred and venom at every turn.
His opinions are mostly about people he virulently disrespects, even detests. "Socialist" Democrats, gays, lesbians, transgender people, African-Americans, Asians, Hollywood elite. He is a racist although he denies it. Never issuing a word of respect for President Obama, spewing hatred from every pore. He is profoundly envious and judgmental of others, but sees not a whit of those repugnant traits in himself. Something is missing. Every attempt at discourse devolves into an epithet of either homo or xenophobia. "Lesbos, Affirmative Action "beneficiaries,” and weak-willed gays who have made the wrong choice in life (because there is no gay gene.") He professes to be an amateur geneticist. He is "Euro centric," a word to veil his racial and ethnic analysis of inferiors. Sometimes he sounds like a chapter from "Mein Kampf." Imagine a Jew who shares Hitlarian racial opinions?
Respect for people he does not personally know is thin. For some reason there exists a great personal animosity toward those who have achieved fame and fortune or have even had careers of personal distinction because he has set some mysterious indecipherable criteria. Obama only became President of the Harvard Law Review because of affirmative action. Hillary lied about bullets over Bosnia. He believes one of his sons was deprived of Medical School admission in the US because of that program. So that might be a partial explanation for his opinion, but maybe not. Other's children are either cheap, not wide-ranging, or undeserving of their success compared to his own. A court-reporter friend who committed suicide was dismissed as "dead." with out an ounce of compassion toward her.
Joseph has successful professional (a lawyer and a doctor) children and is himself a professional, has tried many cases successfully and is aging, but depending upon one's point of view, not well.
Always iconoclastic, he joined two fraternities in college and quit both. Fine. His personality did not allow him to blend in. That is ok. But he has regressed into even more pronounced paranoia and xenophobia, and has recently reconnected with me after a year's time out. One day last year, he had crossed the line by intruding in a personal matter in which I had asked him to desist. He could not and I told him not to call me again. A year went by. No daily calls from him. No baiting to debate long shop worn issues. No listening to half-baked opinions and pejorative nicknames for politicians, such as "Hilldog, Obamster." No more conversations devolving into homophobia, xenophobia, expressions of hostility toward the government helping the less fortunate, no more rants against affirmative action, Jews who were "too observant" and no more stories about his wanting to volunteer for a Mossad assassination squad to kill Nazis in Argentina as justification for his schizophrenic relationship with his Jewish origin and to confer upon himself some aura of authority because of an unfulfilled wish that occurred, if it did, in 1967 or so. This justified his opinions about Israel, even though he has never been there.
His spleen not being vented on me for a year, gave me some repose. Meeting him this week at the event, he greeted me warmly. I think he was genuinely happy to resume our relationship. However, after he went home, he sent me the following post-Oscar trope about people he does not know and films he probably not seen:
I I "
"loved the "Leftie" PC Hollywood assholes fucking up their attempt at affirmative action in choosing Moonlight (HaHa--clearly not the best film although I have read very good and inspiring) by choosing two idiots that obviously could not think on their feet with their scripted brains. It said an actress' name and then LaLa Land. Duh--let's read it anyway!!
Then they choose a female abuser and alcoholic in Casey Afflack as best actor. I just love those Leftie assholes!! Is he really the "best" if their best? I hope he is such is my antipathy for them as a group!! They should soon give the murderer Matthew Broderick a humanitarian award, eh?
I will never forget the moguls hiding behind their screens in not blasting anti-Semitism and the Nazi movement during WWII!!
I still laugh at their putting forth "Rock" Hudson and John Travolta and Tom Cruise as "macho ladies' men", I love their hypocrisy and weak characters and lies!! I love it that so many are alcoholics and drug abuser."
In responding to the above remarks, one should know that the source was clearly angry. The reasons for that anger must be explored.
He plainly wanted to bait me into another debate. I was not biting. Clearly his judgments were unhinged, because the winning film deserved the Oscar, as did another film or two. But he could not stand that an African-American film won the award, which everyone knows is a bit political. Last year's complaints abounded about no blacks in the awards. As for his judgment on Casey Affleck, who has resurrected his career, winning an Oscar for a brilliant performance, Joseph condemned Hollywood for awarding him the Academy Award, because he was a drug abuser. Matthew Broderick caused a terrible accident, but he was not a "murderer." Travolta, Cruise, and Hudson, other objects of Joseph's derision were gay, but so what? Hudson lived in a time when gays were discriminated against and surely suffered as a result. On top of all that, he attacked Warren Beatty and Faye Dunnaway, two iconic artists who have contributed mightily to their art, for a human mistake.
I suggested that he open a Facebook page so that he could cultivate a wider audience for his vituperation. He could include how he felt about growing up in the south with a confederate battle flag at his school and blacks riding at the back of the bus.
After I responded to his text, telling him to direct his vitriol elsewhere, he called me "weak." and that I had no gut for "honest debate." That he was truly sorry for me (I am not making this up.)
Joseph used to call me at all hours of the day and night to rant about affirmative action, democrats being socialists, even communists. He would tell me that Arabs are cockroaches and, including women and children, should be carpet-bombed, transferred out of their homes so that the concept of Greater Israel could be realized. He was an admirer of Meyer Kahane, the assassinated firebrand leader of the Jewish Defense League. Joseph thinks still that all the Arabs in the occupied territories should be transferred out to Jordan, that Gaza should be annexed and that the population there also be removed. All this reminds me of the Ribbentrop plan to move the Jews to Madagascar in 1943.
There is no doubt in my mind that he voted for Trump. But not for economic reasons or well thought out ideals of what America should be. Or that Islamophobia does not help do anything but help recruit more Jihadists and discourage Arab nations, now allied with Israel against the Iranian menace, and the quest for a revanchist Russia for Middle East hegemony.
The question is what do I do about my friend, who may be sinking fast. Do I abide his provocations, spend hours debating him, or just write him off as a lost cause? Kant said that one must act out of duty, and Bentham said for the greatest happiness. What is the right thing to do?