Sunday, September 28, 2008

Friends in Low Places

As you know, this presidential election is near killing me. I have been helping in my little way for months now. This is my second presidential election as a citizen of a red state. My wounds have barely healed from 2004. Some are are reopening and oozing. I am used to living in bastions of liberalism. Madison. Chicago. Minneapolis. Washington, D.C. I never knew people who voted for George Bush (or at least people who fessed up to it). My parents have been staunch Democrats since they earned their American citizenship and the right to vote in 1988. I learned through osmosis, I suppose. Isn't that how we learn all of our values? And how we vote is primarily based on values, right? Well they are for me. My values are everything. They drive me socially, politically, economically. They define me.

I value my civil rights. And others' too. I value my body. I value the air I breath, the water I drink, the mountains I hike. I value the safety of the food I feed my family. I value the common good over the common greed. I value the education my sons get. I value literacy. I value curiosity. I value raising minimum wage. I value change. I value responsibility. I value global friendships. I value equal pay for women. I value parental leave and family medical leave. I value caring for the young, the elderly, the infirmed, the innocent, the voiceless. I value access to competent, caring physicians. I value the ground I walk on. I value the security of the roads I drive, the airspace I fly, the shores I wade. I value my country's global position. I value the lives of our soldiers and their kin. I value other creatures and their place in the ecosystem that sustains us. I value economic prosperity. I value the ability to put out a hand to help others lift their bootstraps. I value integrity, honesty, and advocacy of my elected officials. I value actions. I value freedom of choice. I value unhindered fun. I value guns being kept off my streets. I value the right to say what I please. I value universal access to healthcare, economic stability, education, and freedom. I value diversity. I value alternatives to oil. I value a solid, secure, sustainable planet. I value a future for my sons that is free of hate and vitriol and a draft. I value justice, peace, the American dream.

This is how my mom and dad raised me. These are their values I pass on to Bird and Deal. This is our legacy to my sons, first generation Americans.

How can I be friends with people whose values are not mine? People whose values stray so far from mine that a chasm the size of a galaxy separates us? What will be our common denominators? Our threads? How can we reconcile our differences in a meaningful way? How will we toast in shared joy instead of clash with animosity? How am I to stop all the judging, gagging, eye rolling, knuckle cracking, nail biting, heart racing, stammering, and gasping that I am not poker player enough to hide? How can I stop myself from asking, "What the fuck are you thinking? McPain is a disaster of EPIC proportions? You are irresponsible and downright un-American to vote for this vile ticket that will set women and our country and polar bears back at least 100 years. You are thinking with your short-term wallet instead of with your long-term portfolio. You disgust me with your selfish, racist, bullying ways. I have no respect for your pompous ilk. You care about yourself only with no respect for your fellow men, women, and children. Or animals for that matter. You think you have a right to define and play god. Your way is not the only way. You are a closed minded wretch who is a parasite on this planet. Your disillusionment is calamitous. I cannot break bread with you. I cannot trust you. I cannot stomach you!" With this I struggle.

Perhaps there would be some kicking, hair pulling, profuse cussing, elbowing, and pinching. Whom am I kidding? Fisticuffs would ensue, and I'd likely be on the bottom of the pile. I'm only five feet tall after all.

Do you detect some anger in my voice? Don't be fooled. It's fear.

I thought we hit rock bottom four years ago. I had no freaking clue that things could go ever deeper into the guts of hell. I still feel that our reality is surreal. McPain cannot possibly be happening. Those signs don't really read "Women for McCain." "Really?" I want to ask. "Because nothing about his policy is for you." I am filled with caustic anger that singes the soul. I admit to this. I just don't know how to escape it.

And so I plunder on. Canvassing. Writing. Calling. Blogging. Donating. I empty myself of this enmity through my written words and positive actions. So far I have not uttered words of ugliness, though you better believe I am thinking them behind my veil of "Hey, how are you? So nice to see you. Coffee? Nah, 9:00 doesn't work for me. Catch you later."
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The Tutugirl said...

My values and my passions are right there with you. But I think there is some value to having friend with different political viewpoints and listening to conservative talking points. First, they make you stronger in your convictions and better equipped to deal with what people on the other side can throw at you. But they can also give you some perspective. I think both sides can sometimes get too wrapped up in our own opinions to see parts that are good in the other side's argument.

landismom said...

Well, working in a battleground state, I've definitely had my share of "hunh?!" moments with people that I thought I knew better than that. It's awfully strange, to recognize that people who seem sane on the surface are actually not.

Bubba said...

I really enjoy coming here to read your viewpoints and I understand where you are coming from. But don't forget one of the many definitions of the word "liberal".


Try not to allow your anger to turn you into one of the very types of people that you despise, a fist-clenched, close-minded, my way, or the highway individual who won't acknowledge or can't even look at a person with whom they are debating.

Don't lose your passion but enjoy these days. The polarized diversity is what makes this so emotional and riveting.

Good luck in keeping your sanity. :-)

BostonWriter said...

Great post and a hell of a read. I completely understand where you're coming from and anyone who has strong political convictions - right or left - feels the same way from time-to-time. However, the notion that there is only a "my way or the highway" option in life is exactly what got us into the mess we're in today.

Echoing what an earlier commenter stated, listening to all sides of an argument brings perspective... and that's critical with all important decisions in life. Stating (or worse, truly believing) that your ideological opposites don't care about children or women or the environment is the type of generalization that discredits legitimate opposition on policy and practice.

Having an activist heart is a wonderful and necessary thing... especially in times like this. Dissent and openness is at the core of a healthy democracy, but there is a world of gray that exists between following your heart and closing your mind that should be explored. Not all liberals are socialists. Not all conservatives are war-mongers. Red flags can and should go up whenever people start making sweeping generalizations or commonly replace the pronouns "he/she" with "they/them."

The best way to pressure-test your beliefs is to expose yourself to the possibility that those beliefs could be wrong. Doing so will a) empower you to better refute your opponents and b) ensure that you don't deify the leader you support. Blind adherence to any political doctrine - left or right - is the true enemy of democracy.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for your words of reason, Commenter Friends. You echo the same sentiments Mac Daddy tells me every night to calm my nerves. But you know how you always listen to other people even though your spouse has been saying the same thing over and over.

Surely all sides (for really, there are more than two), value our basic rights and love their family. I'm not disputing that, but the way we manifest those values is what is different. For me it is the "me" versus "we" mentality. Surely we are a better place if we can lift each other up.

What's frustrating to me is that the people I seem to know are blindly conservative and follow like lemmings instead of reading and researching for themselves (of course this happens of both sides). They are also people who let, encourage even, their grade school children peel off Democrat stickers from people's cars and take down yard signs. This coupled with a rash of desecrated Obama signs in towns around me. Perhaps there are vandalized McCain signs too, but we're not hearing about them.

My point is that I can bear a reasonable conversation, doesn't even have to be a heated debate. It is the ignorant rants and puppeting that I cannot stomach. How I tire of hearing of Obama's race. Keep in mind these people who openly talk about having trouble trusting a black man are saying this to me, an Indian woman with brown skin who was not even born in America. I suppose I'm feeling it, rather internalizing it, from a political and racial perspective.

I used to be simply passionate and emotional without being as crazy as I have become. I feel that passion turn to rage the the more times I have drivers flip me off and flick cigarette butts on my car (with my kids in it) all because of my bumper sticker. I've never even had a negative smear sticker and would not do so (though they are funny to laugh at on cafepress.com)

I am admittedly becoming intolerant of those whose views swing wildly right. And you know what, those who swing wildly left make me crazy too. I need to dust off my brain and find that tolerance again, lest I become the crazy liberal ranting cat lady.

Thanks again for your insightful comments and voices of reason.

I just might make coffee at 9:00 with my friend after all. But it won't be easy.

Anonymous said...

Just so you know you're making a difference, my Dad owned up last night that you have helped changed his mind and he's voting Obama. My mom almost fell out of her chair (since she is a pretty hard core democrat and it has been a point of contention their entire marriage). It was a great moment in our family. CS

Anonymous said...

And your passion is what makes America so GREAT, that you can have friends and households who are so passionate about the next leader, regardless of their party affiliation.

More importantly, we need a strong congress who will stand up and lead, and really make change and not put us back into the "Carter Economic" crisis of the 70's....

I love the republican party, and will definitley vote that direction, However, I enjoy your spirited left blog!


Anonymous said...

Yeah to CS' dad for voting Obama! A big welcome to the left side of life! I'll buy you a drink next time you're in town.

Anonymous, I can learn a thing or two from you. I don't know if I could read a blog that spins crazy right wing tales the way I spin crazy left wing tales. Thanks for reading!

steenky bee said...

Sister. I haven't read a word you've written yet, but you're left leaning. I'm in. Also, you look sassy and fierce in your photo. I'm so in. I'm going back to read you.

steenky bee said...

Please allow me to give you an enthusiastic witness to everything you have said here.

Although, at first I thought the idea of Palin as just someone to kick around for humor or fodder was interesting, she is now too close to the presidency for my comfort.

Anonymous said...

I can appreceiate your left wing comments just as I can appreciate the ones that come from the right. Having diffent views and opinions is what makes this America and has helped shape this into such a great country. That being said I think you need to channel your anger into understanding. Understand why someone from the "other side" thinks the way they do and learn from it, don't chastise and condemn it. That is how we learn and become better humans. One part of your blog comments on caring about your country and the environment, please visit this site and see for this for yourself, the man you probably despise more than anyone other republican on this earth is doing something for the enviroment, and the one who is running around telling everyone else to "get with the program" isn't. http://www.truthorfiction.com/rumors/g/gore-bush-houses.htm
Are there reblicians that fit the description you have just painted, sure
but you can't generalize all republicans like you have in your blog. Just as a republican can't/ shouldn't genalize all democrats. There have been great leaders throughout the history of America, some democrat, some replublican, as there will be in the future. If James Carvelle and Mary Matalin can make a marriage work being of two extreme opposing sides you should be able to at least have coffee with your friend.

Tenakim said...

This made me cry- I get you!