About a week ago, I was at a church meeting and a speaker made a political joke. I started to feel myself tensing up . . . but everyone just chuckled good-heartedly. Then he made a comment about the fact that among his friends at the church, he is the resident Democrat and kind of gets playfully teased about that. (Honestly, that surprised me a bit -- I'd gotten the impression that Republicans were the minority at my church, but maybe I was mistaken.)
I thought about that for quite a while. I was trying to remember the last time I heard politics discussed light-heartedly. The last time I was in a group of people who I knew disagreed with me politically and felt comfortable making my views known. The last time I didn't feel that people who disagreed with me politically were judging my character because of my political beliefs.
It's been a long time.
It was at least before the Obama administration . . . before San Antonio and Iowa, in our family's
story. It was probably sometime in New Jersey, because I went to church with many liberal friends there, and while I don't remember many political discussions with them, I also don't remember being afraid to say what I thought or any of us judging the other for what we thought.
When did this animosity start? And why?
Well, looking at my personal experience, I suspect a big part of it is that, by chance, I haven't had a lot of liberal friends that I see face-to-face since I left New Jersey. They're all on Facebook. So any political discussion that involves disagreement is happening in online statuses and comments.
More than that, I think I can pinpoint the chronological beginning of this tension, at least my personal experience of it: Obamacare.
I remember so well the hurtful reactions I got from FB friends when I questioned the wisdom of Obamacare online. They didn't question my opinions; they questioned my character. Not all of them, but many of them. I was told that I obviously hated poor people, that I was a spoiled rich girl . . . and those were some of the milder remarks. It hurt -- seriously. Don't these people know me better than that? Is this really what they think of me? Behind all of their smiles and surface-level compliments? They REALLY believe I disagree with this because I'm hateful . . . because I'm selfish . . . because I'm stupid . . . because I'm racist . . . really???
These same friends (these are the really passionate ones) over time are increasingly posting a lot of negative things about conservatives in general: things that, again, slam the character of anyone who could possibly disagree with them . . . which includes me. They are also the first to jump on anything remotely political that I personally post and argue against me, and they get personal.
Again -- not all of them, but many of them. And I have ugly conservative friends who do the same thing to their political opponents, for the record.
Most of my friends (liberal AND conservative) simply don't bring such topics up anymore. I suspect they probably feel like me: they're afraid to have their character brought into question publicly for what they say. It's like a don't-ask-don't-tell environment. My daughter told me the other day that she just doesn't want to know ANYONE's political leanings -- it affects what she thinks of them and what they think of her. The result of all this is that the reasonable people stay silent, and the only political discussion that happens is the ugly, hateful, divisive stuff.
That's so sad. How did we get this way?
I blame Facebook. If we're going to have passionate discussions about important issues that we have strong disagreement about, those should probably happen face-to-face. Where you can hear the tone of their voice and react to the pain in their eyes. Where you are kind of forced to take the time to at least make small talk about other things, things that you have in common, things that show some interest in and concern about the other person.
This election has been emotional for me. I take my vote seriously, and I'm quite distressed at my choice here and what it's going to mean for my children's future. I really would have liked to have talked about this decision in this blog; in the past, I've used this as a place to hash things out and get feedback from a variety of respondents.
But I've been afraid to. The very fact that I didn't see the choice as obvious would be seen as a sign of my stupidity and ungodliness (yes, really) to many friends on BOTH sides of the aisle. I don't have it in me right now to defend myself against that. So, I just shut up.
The ugliness in our country right now has led me to pray mightily for my children -- among other things, I pray that they will not only know right from wrong, but will have the courage to stand up for right when the national mood is against them. It occurs to me that I'm not modeling that courage right now.
So, for those of you who don't know, I'm a conservative. And here's a link to an old post I wrote explaining why. And for the record, I don't know what I'm going to do when I get in the voting booth this week.
I have only a few days to decide. And maybe I'll find the courage to blog about it. I just hope the people who claim to be my friends will believe in me enough not to question my integrity based on my vote. Getting kind of tired of that . . . getting ready to hit the unfriend button.