We met freshman year in high school, and yes, that was a couple of decades ago. She became one of my best friends, not just during the four years of adolescent angst, but through college and the travails of early adulthood.
Even after moving to separate states, we stayed tight. But eventually, we segued into that maintenance mode of friendship, where you’ve probably had all the adventures you’re going to have with a person, and your continued relationship consists of staying in touch and enjoying the rare times you get together.
And then even that was gone. I had not heard from her in about five years, when last month—abruptly and seemingly at random—she sent me a text.
Before I tell you the content of that text, let me tell you about my friend. I’ll call her Anna, which is not her real name and is clearly not an anagram.
Anna was one of the first people I ever knew who came out, and she was outspoken in both her defense of gay rights and her condemnation of racism. Overall, she was about as progressive as it gets.
So you can imagine my surprise when I read her text—a hodge-podge of reintroduction—that culminated with the alarming phrase “Trump 2020!”
What the actual fuck?
I ran through the scenarios. Was this a bad joke? A jab to see if I had turned to the dark side? Perhaps a highly improbable typo?
Nothing made sense, so I texted her back and asked, as calmly and politely as I could, just what the hell she meant by that sign-off.
Anna responded with the following text:
“President Trump is the best thing that’s ever happened to our country. I am done with the Democratic Party. All the states and cities that are burning right now are run by Democrats. There’s a darker agenda.”
Ok, so that’s no to the whole idea of a typo.
I responded (again, as peacefully as I could), and asked what she was talking about.
Here was her response:
“Mayors kneeling to a mob of rioters is one clue to this agenda. Antifa, who has done most of the rioting, is funded by George Soros, a far-left puppet/frontman of a shadowy group of international bankers. This group is notorious for bringing countries down from the inside out. Through infiltration instead of invasion. The Democratic Party has also been infiltrated to an astonishing degree, but you probably don’t want to hear about that.”
Well, Anna was right about one thing. I didn’t want to hear crazy anti-Semitic conspiracy theories. I’ve heard enough of them.
So I wished her well and ended our correspondence. The last thing she wrote to me was: “Your mayor is a traitor who wants to defund the police,” which is a particularly odd, random, and sad way to finish our friendship. Believe me, when we were 14, I would not have predicted that this exchange—decades later—would be the final word on our relationship. But I highly doubt that I will ever hear from Anna again.
I will never know what happened to Anna. How did an open-minded, kind-hearted liberal morph into a paranoid, delusional conspiracy monger? Did her mind suddenly snap? Or did she just gradually decide to abandon all the principles of the first half of her life? Did someone hypnotize her? Did she decide to give racism a try and liked it?
Other troubling questions bubble up. Is it a common occurrence for young progressives to turn into bitter reactionaries as they age? If so, is that what happened to the hippies who went to Woodstock who became Trump supporters 50 years later? Could this happen to anyone? Are we all at risk?
I have no answers to any of those questions.
My only hope is that, in later years, when I think of Anna, I will not remember the middle-aged woman furiously texting me bizarre, offensive rants. Instead, I hope that I remember the funny, creative, sweet artist who hung out with me in our youth, when we were close as could be, and when we shared dreams about our bright, limitless future.