Mon. May 23rd, 2022

There are many of us who in the course of this election have lost friends, and even relatives. These are people you know, people who shared food and good times, even your name, with you.

I write about them during this holiest of weeks in our Christian calendar to remind ourselves that we have our own crosses to bear when we are denied and betrayed by those who we personally know, and whom we have not wronged in any way except for having a difference of opinion.

I can personally vouch for the great personal pain that one can encounter when people who you thought would understand you most suddenly turn not only cold on you but deny your existence.

I do not have any problem when people I do not personally have any acquaintance with beyond social media, or people with whom I have interacted but never bonded with some level of affinity, unfriend me. After all, there is nothing to fuss about since the act is simply a mechanical severance of an artificial or superficial connection.

In some cases, I was even the one who ejected these people from my social media world because they repeatedly crossed the line and have used their being accepted entry in my digital community as an open license to frontally disrespect me.

There is no pain in blocking a person who has no personal value in my life. I will not lose sleep over unfriending someone who sees our disagreement in our politics as a license to either frontally attack me in my own wall, or worse, attack me in their walls.

This is why it is utterly offensive when someone you consider a friend or someone who is part of your family would unfriend you just because of political differences, in the absence of an actual direct confrontation or of any personal attack on your part.

These could include colleagues with whom you have bonded within a real, and not just virtual, community, not only during happy moments, but even during periods of crisis. In my case, these would include former students whose learning I did not just enable but who I even treated as my very own children in my role as their second parent in school.

And yes, they would include even relatives by blood or by affinity, people you do not choose to be kind to, but have a social obligation to consider as part of a family.

Certainly, it is still part of being human to feel the pain when someone to whom you have not personally done anything wrong, would suddenly turn cold, even hostile on you, and worse, would have the audacity to unfriend you in social media.

READ: Educators, please educate

This is something that I have personally experienced; people I have considered with fondness and affinity who because they disagree with my politics have unfriended me. I even saw a few of them liking, loving and even laughing with people who eviscerate me online, while some even went beyond emoticons and expressed their hostility in words.

These are people who I thought knew me and my political principles because I have interacted with them personally, as friends, colleagues, students or relatives. And yet, they openly and blatantly agreed and joined those who attacked me with patent lies.

It would have been easy for them to reach out and ask if the allegations against me were true if they had no prior information about it. I cannot imagine students and colleagues in academe who I thought knew my politics would ignore my nuanced positions on issues and join in agreement with those who accuse me of irresponsible scholarship.

I cannot imagine friends who knew my character would easily agree and accept allegations that I could be so corrupt as to approach Vice President Maria Leonor Robredo to intercede on behalf of a relative in legal trouble, to plead that she use her authority.

I was so horrified that people who I thought knew me personally and my story could take part in the lynch mob that resurrected my alleged plagiarism case, or that I allegedly sexually molested some of my students.

And then there were those who sat there quietly, not lifting a finger while my enemies were busy crucifying me on social media. Many of them did not even bother to check with me how my family and I were taking it, to even just show concern and solidarity.

I appreciate those who expressed solidarity, even if they had to apologize that they could not openly speak out on my behalf for fear of being trolled and trashed. Some friends related to me how they were attacked in their own group chats when they tried to speak on my behalf.

Fortunately, the blessings of real friends who stand by us, some despite our political differences, could not and should not be diminished by those who deny, abandon and even betray us. And I happen to have been blessed with friends like these. My family and I are extremely grateful to those who braved being attacked themselves if only to help me speak my truth.

READ: An election where issues may no longer matter

A special kind of suffering is endured when people you thought you knew doubt your personal stories about their preferred candidate as if they have personal knowledge that exceeds your level of familiarity.

Worse is when it comes from someone in your family who would know better, but would still choose their preferred candidate. I have friends and family who did this to me. It is hard to understand, but we had to accept it. After all, they are entitled to their opinion.

But the unkindest cut, the hardest nail, the heaviest cross, was when they went beyond disagreeing with you, and unfriended you. These are the thoughts that I reflect on during this period of Lent because these are the burdens that I personally suffered and endured because of politics.

READ: Family ties and friendships in peril because of politics

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