I view my blog as a way to share my creativity with friends and family, many of whom are too far away from me to share things with in person. I want it to be a place where people feel comfortable and inspired, so as a general rule, I don’t write about politics or social issues that can be divisive. However, in the life of every rule, there comes a time when it must be broken. This post is that time.
What has gotten me worked up is this – I have (had really, I just defriended her) a friend on Facebook who is extremely liberal, almost to the point of being a socialist. I know what topics to avoid discussing with her and usually we get along just fine. This weekend, though, was the tipping point in our online friendship. I logged into Facebook and found the following message on my home page (I’m paraphrasing a little bit):
Romney/Ryan will ruin us all. If you can’t vote for Obama, please just don’t vote.
EXCUSE ME? You have the right to tell me not to vote just because we having differing points of view? Kindly tell me who died and made Democrats the only people in America whose opinions count? The whole reason it’s called an opinion in the first place is because it can’t be proven. Hell, most “facts” can eventually be disproven given enough time and study. I felt like responding this way to her and her 13 likes but I didn’t feel like baiting someone who, until now, I respected. Besides, I doubt Facebook allows a 15 page reply to a comment.
So what exactly set me off about this, besides the personal attack ( I am a moderate conservative and agree with a few tenants of the Tea Party movement)? She has the right, after all, to say whatever she feels. You’d think after experiencing two divisive elections in New England, I’d be used to attacks on my political views anyway, but that’s beside the point. Three things about this really pissed me off.
First of all, I take my right to vote EXTREMELY seriously. When people get upset about minority voting rights, I kindly remind them that even black men in this country had the right to vote before women of any color. If I don’t vote (for whatever reason), then I’m basically spitting on the contributions of the women who were willing to risk ridicule, imprisonment and even torture so that I could have the right to express my beliefs by voting. Furthermore, I was a political science major in college, and I have studied the Constitution, our legal system and political theory. I feel a deep passion for our democratic way of life and I have never not voted. Even when my grandmother was on her deathbed in 2000, I took the time to vote before rushing home to be with her. Whether I truly believe my candidate is the best one for the job, or it’s a protest vote is immaterial to me. What kind of hypocrite would I be if I didn’t vote?
Secondly, I wonder if my friend even cares about how many people around the work are dying in attempts to gain control of their own lives through the democratic process. The entire Arab Spring movement is due to other people’s desire to have what we routinely take for granted. If freedom and democracy aren’t universal human desires, why are so many people willing to die to put a checkmark on a ballot? Why do so many people stand in line for hours to vote and then proudly display ink-stained fingers for the cameras, the physical evidence that they were allowed to speak their minds to their governments? If we don’t vote, regardless of our beliefs, we risk becoming the very type of autocracy that people around the world are trying to bring to an end.
Thirdly, I can’t help but wonder if social medial erases any trace of an internal censor simply because it removes us from the consequences of what we say. In real life, when approaching a difficult topic like politics or religion, we might at least try to tiptoe around the issue if we don’t know someone else’s beliefs, if only to not get punched. When we are online, however, there is a physical barrier of distance between us and our audience. Perhaps we feel bolder when we can only see positive responses to our comments and don’t witness the other side of an argument.
As I mentioned, I have defriended her . I don’t know when I’ll see her again in person, but I hope by that point she won’t even think about Facebook or why she’s no longer someone I speak with online. I have to say I lost a lot of respect for her in reading that post. I will never understand why I’m the enemy just because I believe in fiscal restraint, small federal government, and states’ rights. I just find it interesting when dealing with my liberal friends that they stoop to all kinds of name-calling, but don’t realize that when they point their fingers at someone who’s opinion is different than their, three are pointing right back at them.