I will not make friends with this post. I may lose some. I can live with that.
I am a Democrat. My parents were Democrats, and I was raised in an environment that favored unions, government’s duty to give a hand up to those who are struggling, and the necessity of real opportunity for all citizens. As a young adult I was “born again” into my own political beliefs, and found that I was a lefty not only by breeding but by choice. I cleave naturally to the party that supports a woman’s right to choose, reasonable control of firearms, and the idea that those of us who are most blessed have an obligation to those less fortunate. I voted for Obama, I will vote for him again, and I am proud to have him as my leader even when he takes a wrong step.
That being said, I am driven absolutely insane by the proliferation of political ugliness on Facebook. Most of my “friends,” real and imagined are also Democrats, but a handful are Republicans. Both groups contribute to the unproductive, vicious mess that I see daily. I read, appreciate and learn from thoughtful articles reposted from reliable news sources, I always read the posts by Factcheck.org, and I am respectful of honest expression of opinions from left or right. What I cannot abide are the cheap shots, the attacks on the appearance, clothing, or intelligence of a candidate or his or her spouse. The current sentiment seems to be that if one refuses to participate, to hyperventilate, and to jump on board every snarky meme that passes through the feed, one has one’s head buried in the sand.
I am married to a Conservative. He and I agree totally on the direction in which the country should move, but we disagree on the best way to make a change. He does not want poor children to be starved, he supports a woman’s right to control her body, and he believes military spending should be cut. This changes my view of this process, and makes it far more difficult to dismiss all Republicans as de facto robber barons and imbeciles. I am not going to vote for them, but I see them as human beings with passionately held beliefs that happen to differ from my own. No bitchy vitriol, no matter how clever or catchy, is going to win over anyone who is undecided, and it is even more unlikely to persuade someone to switch sides.
Serious debate is essential to the political process, as is thoughtful study and the expression of the opinions formed on the basis thereof. It is facile, cheap and dishonorable to say that Romney would make a bad leader because of his religion or his wife’s life choices. Those may be factors deserving of examination in some meaningful context, but how can we endorse the notion that a Mormon would necessarily make a terrible leader while excoriating those who believed that a Catholic JFK couldn’t be an effective President?
Here’s a story: during the primary campaigns, a story circulated on Facebook about one of Michelle Bachman’s many mistakes. It came to me from a generally reliable source, and I hit “Share.” Within thirty minutes I had received a message from a thoughtful friend directing me to the actual facts, which were significantly different from those I had endorsed. I suppose it’s possible to argue that it doesn’t matter, that Bachman was doomed to be hoist by her own petard, and that although she might not actually have made thatparticular mistake, she made plenty of others. I can’t live with that. I do not want to vote for Michelle Bachman, or even have lunch with her, but my cause, my party’s cause and the country’s cause are not advanced by lies and exaggerations intended to confuse and sway the uninformed. That, my friends, is no better than being a “Birther.” A lie is a lie, and a careless lie in the name of political expedience is beneath the dignity of anyone attempting to make real progress through politics.
I don’t have to visit Facebook until after the election; there are plenty of other uses for the hours it sucks from my life. I understand that it is the right of others to post as they please, apparently assuming that anyone who doesn’t agree with them is a moron. I also understand that there are diverse opinions about the “proper” use of Facebook, and that while I use it primarily as a social outlet and crowdsourcing venue, many folks believe that it should be used mostly as a platform for the promotion of political opinions.
If I thought for one minute that sharing my political views on a daily basis, and engaging in fierce debates with conservatives would bring One Single Person to fight alongside me, I might engage. I have used Facebook to raise awareness about local, national and global issues in the past and been gratified to see people open their hearts, minds and wallets. During last night’s debate I had one friend from each party who kept up a useful and objective blow-by-blow. Both have a bias, a strong one, but their professionalism and intelligence informed their observations in such a way that the Republican could concede a point scored by Obama and the Democrat could admit Romney’s successes. It can be done.
Mostly, though what I see is that people like me are beaten to death with negative exhortations to think what we already think, and to vote as we are already planning to vote. I hate them. I don’t care if Paul Ryan looks like Eddie Munster. I don’t approve of judging Ann Romney as a “fifties housewife” any more than I approved of judging Hilary Clinton as an aggressive ball-buster. It advances nothing, and it does not in any way move this country towards being a place where women are treated fairly, children are fed and educated adequately, and we care as much about poor families as we do about banks. What it does is appeal to people from both major parties who exchange gleeful cyber high-fives about how much smarter and more insightful they are than everyone else.
You may “unfriend” me while I find the sand bucket for my head.