American political discourse was not exactly harmonious five years ago, but over the course of Donald Trump’s presidency, it corroded even further. What’s called the national conversation is really just millions of people communicating with each other, and if you could tune out all the yelling, you might be able to detect some of the silences that have arisen when two people stopped talking entirely.
One of those silences formed between Mary Ann Luna and a dear friend of hers from her federal-government job. By the time their relationship ended, after disagreements about Trump and the severity of the pandemic, Luna, a 74-year-old who lives in Gilbert, Arizona, and her friend had three decades of shared history. They ate lunch with each other every workday for about 15 years and once went on vacation together; when Luna’s daughter got married, her friend hosted a celebratory brunch.
Politics wasn’t something they talked much about until the 2016 election, when Luna says her friend started parroting Trump in daily conversation, making racist remarks and questioning Luna’s news sources. As her friend kept this up, Luna often tried to gently redirect the conversation. Their communication didn’t get confrontational until last year, when, among other things, her friend sent her a prayer for Trump, which upset Luna because her friend knew Luna didn’t like Trump. The last text Luna sent to her friend was in November, following a rare month-long silence between them: “I am sorry that your guy lost, but let’s leave politics out and just be friends.” She never heard back.