No Offense, But I Really Value Your Friendship

Students in Washington, D.C. get a fascinating education outside of the classroom: they get used to how this strange town operates. The parlance of Washington runs on the power of equivocation and doublespeak, with the singular goal of allowing those fluent in it to do what they want with as few consequences as possible. At some point, you as a participant in Washington's culture become desensitized to these linguistic formalities, automatically translating, "We just don't have the money" to "We have the money but don't want to spend it," and "I can't say with certitude [that I didn't tweet inappropriate photos of myself]" to "I can say with absolute certitude [that I did, in fact, tweet inappropriate photos of myself]."

Simultaneously, the most important currency in Washington is loyalty. If there is one lesson to be learned from every political television show, it's that those who are disloyal to the people who gave them a shot at success will ultimately crash and burn. To quote Paul, from Beau Willimon's play Farragut North, "There's only one thing I value in this world, Steve, and that's loyalty. Without it, you're nothing and you have no one."

Learning how to navigate this environment is an education unto itself. As students, we are at the epicenter of this conflict: we're in a constant competition with one another for academic honors, jobs, and romance, and continuously facing the choice between loyalty to friends and disloyalty to get ahead.  

A casualty of this conflict is the phrase "I really value your friendship." If you're anything like me, you know that as soon as someone says this to you, your friendship is essentially over. Because it is inevitably followed by some unforgivable betrayal of trust.  

I'm serious, here. This phrase joined the ranks of "No offense, but *insert objectively offensive statement here*" and "It's not you, it's me" as a trite phrase meant as a social "get out of jail free" card.  

For example, let's say you apply for your friend's dream job without telling them because it would be too explosive a conversation. You've called in every connection and you're trying hard to exploit every advantage. Inevitably, you will get this job and, inevitably, your friend will not. And in an effort to smooth things over, you reassure your friend that you "value their friendship." Which should be enough, right? You just took something important away from him or her in a very deceptive way, but because you "value their friendship," they shouldn't be angry.

Alternatively, you could find yourself on the receiving end of such patronization. Here's the scenario: in a move all too common on our hookup culture-riddled campuses, someone you thought of as a close friend decides it would be appropriate to start sleeping with a guy or girl who absolutely broke your heart. Despite being there for you throughout this ordeal, they've decided to initiate this thing that is a complete betrayal of your trust, and in the most supreme of insults, they expect you to overlook your feelings of betrayal because they "value your friendship." It's the least you can do, your friendship means so much to them — they said so! Who needs the tried-and-true adage "actions speak louder than words" when everyone in Washington knows that shouting words loudly makes them true?

Here's a thought: don't stab your friend in the back while pretending to be their friend. It's this sort of counterproductive game play that keeps Washington in its dysfunctional rut. Friends and politicians alike use these verbal fig leaves to maintain a charade of loyalty, preventing actual dialogue about why we as people feel the need to take things away from each other while pretending to be friends instead of choosing one or the other. Why can't we just be honest with ourselves? Let's either fully embrace this town's culture of loyalty or its language of duplicity, because stubbornly entrenching ourselves in the middle ultimately precludes the possibility of progress.