Why can’t we talk about these things and still remain good friends? I want to ask you: Why do you favor a large powerful central government? Why do you prefer group rights over those of the individual? Why do you hurt people in the name of helping them? You want to ask me: Why do I want a limited national government? Why do I favor the rights of the individual over those of the group? Why am I cold and heartless when it comes to those who are the least fortunate among us?

Given our ideological differences, I want to ask you why you insist on calling yourself a liberal, and you want to ask me how it is that I think of myself as a liberal. All of this needs to be discussed.

It wasn’t that long ago that our friendships were a valuable source of knowledge and education. We were able to explore topics beyond the weather, our health, and our children and grandchildren and benefit from these exchanges. We were able to be much more open and vulnerable than we would otherwise be with a mere acquaintance or a stranger. When we were unable to agree, we nevertheless gained insight into each other’s thoughts and beliefs.

It used to be fun as well as informative to discuss and debate our differences, and even occasionally laugh at one another.

This friendly and informal educational process has disappeared today. The Socratic Method of inquiry and insight has fallen victim to political correctness. We have allowed ourselves to be duped by our politicians, many sources in the media, and many Hollywood buffoons into believing that if we do not share our political beliefs, we can no longer remain friends.

We can have difference of opinion on a broad range of subjects from sports to clothing to music, then laugh at our differences, go out to dinner together, and remain good friends. So why is this not so when it comes to the two topics which should be near and dear in our lives: politics and religion?

Granted, these are topics which generate strong and sensitive differences of opinion and emotions. The topics themselves, however, are too important to be avoided simply because we may disagree.

If we cannot be open and share our beliefs and opinions with our families and our friends, where can we turn to explore and test our strongly held beliefs? Within this trusted circle, what are we fearful of beyond the possibility that we might just learn something that challenges our former thinking?

I know that the Socratic Method proved fatal for Socrates, but that fact only serves to prove my point. Socrates was not among family and friends.

John Bernardi is a former Tazewell County attorney who now lives in Galena.