Last Spring, I decided to not post anything partisan or overtly political on Facebook. Sure, I commented about the election, mostly indicating a disdain that was not limited to just one party. I often commented on other people’s posts, but I was careful to not call someone stupid, ignorant, or even wrong if they saw things differently than I did. I’ve always been a big fan of satire, so I didn’t stray too far away from satirical pieces that I thought were either funny or though-provoking. Pictures of Big Bird atop Mitt’s car or the Romney family dinner table were about as political as the satire got — and that was more because I thought it funny than because of how I felt about PBS funding. Sometimes I forgot to click those annoying boxes so that articles I read didn’t post to my wall. I never stated, though, which candidates I was voting for, though most of my choices shouldn’t be a surprise to those who know me well. Nor is it any surprise that I am satisfied by the re-election of President Obama or the election of Joe Donnelly as the next Senator from Indiana. But I don’t hate those who voted for Romney or Mourdock. I’m glad that you chose to participate in our electoral process. I respect your right to have different opinions and to make different choices than I would make.
I had a Facebook friend or two who tried to goad me or others several times in the last months of the campaign & I found myself frequently taking deep breaths to refrain from taking the bait. I bristled — then ignored — comments about Obama being a socialist or Romney being a rich but stupid bastard. I was disappointed when others referred to O’Vomit or Rethugnicans, or made jokes about Muslims or Mormons, but I held my tongue and discretely deleted the few comments that others made on my page using such vile language. If they were on your own page, that was your doing, but I have always reserved the right to keep unkind, offensive, or hate-inspiring words off of mine. I had to think deeply about de-friending such individuals. But each time I considered it, I came to the conclusion that was not the right course of action. I respect and love my friends and family, even when they don’t agree with me. (And sometimes more when they don’t agree with me!)
Our democracy depends on diversity of opinion, on listening to each other and — yes! — compromise. Even when the other person doesn’t seem to want an honest debate, we need to listen; we need earnest dialog, not ad hominem attacks, not lies and words taken out of context in order distort the truth and to spin an alternate reality. We need to not take the fodder of the media — either liberal or conservative — the SuperPacs, or internet memes and then regurgitate it without checking its veracity. We need to demand that all of our elected officials show honesty and integrity, have the willingness to listen, recognize the right of the opposite side to speak, and are willing to compromise for the good of the country instead of their political futures. We need to demand that they respect each other — and their constituents, the citizenry of this country.
I was saddened today to realize that one of my Facebook friends de-friended me and several mutual friends in the last day. I am disheartened to know that our friendship, in her book, is not stronger than the fact of which political party she assumed I aligned myself with this election (after all, I didn’t publicly state it until just now). But, to be honest, while I will miss my friend, I will not miss the incongruity that exists between the spiteful comments about the (legitimately elected — twice) President, about Democrats, or about those whose faith does not match up exactly to hers, and her claims to be a patriot, a Christian, and one who wants and cherishes democracy. I think she needs to thoughtfully consider her words (not to mention facts) before referring to the President and his supporters as evil, socialist, divisive, intolerant and anti-Christian.
The country is not going to cease to exist because President Obama was re-elected. You know what? It wouldn’t have fallen apart either if Mitt Romney had won. But I know my ex-Facebook friend will not read this now. I fear that she wouldn’t have understood it if she had. And that’s sad.
(This is a slightly edited version of a status I posted earlier on Facebook — the longest status I’ve ever written. I’m glad I wasn’t restricted to 140 characters!)