Monday, November 12, 2012

In lieu of a political rant...

Something strange is happening to me. Since last week, I can't stop thinking about US politics. This is strange because a) I don't even live in the US and b) I've never really cared about it that much before. So what's changed? I can tell you exactly: facebook.

In the last election, I was a facebook user, but a lot of my immediate and extended family did not. And we definitely did not use it as often or as reliably as we do now. And in elections before that, facebook wasn't even a thing. The reason why it matters is that if you didn't want to talk politics with your family, you just didn't bring it up. Don't want to know that your cousin or your sibling is a bigot? Don't ask them their stance on immigration. Easy peasy.

But now, it's different. We have all had to make choices about whether to remove members of our own family from our facebook news feed so we don't have to read their infuriating political updates. And that's after facebook's nifty news feed filters, which, without you even knowing it, conveniently hide the facebook activity of people whose views aren't your own. Sometimes, it's all just a bit too much and you think, "I love you Aunt Sally, but I can't read about your obsession with _____ anymore," and you reluctantly deselect "Show in News Feed." Good-bye, Aunt Sally. See you at the next wedding or funeral. And isn't it great that we can do that? But what if you just can't help yourself and you take a peek back at Aunt Sally's facebook page and you are horrified at what you see?

If you're me, you ruminate on it.  You start to wonder how on earth Aunt Sally could feel that way, and so strongly. You start thinking Aunt Sally needs to read a book. And get a dictionary. You start to worry for Aunt Sally's children. You start plotting how you're going to expose Aunt Sally for the fascist that she is. You start having evil thoughts about Aunt Sally.

And then you realize wait a minute! I love Aunt Sally! She bought me my very first teddy bear! She's the one that loaned me money so I could buy my first car. She has a big heart and she's got a funny sense of humor, not to mention that cool spoon collection.

Herein lies the rub. I want so much for my family to have the same values as me, because obviously I think they're the best. But we're all different, and while I could spend loads of time pointing out inconsistencies in their beliefs, their ideas about humans, poverty, government systems, etc., I know, deep in my heart, that it would only drive a further wedge between us. And what I really want is for Aunt Sally to know that I love her no matter what, no matter how she voted or how she feels about the election. It's easy to forget sometimes, when you feel so strongly about certain issues, that the people on the other side are just that: people. People that you love.

So before you make that post on facebook, get your anger in check and think about how we can help each other understand each other's points of view rather than shoot virtual arrows at each other. We can try to educate each other without insults. We can lovingly disagree with respect and we can humbly question our own beliefs. Because after all, that's really the only way for two opposing views to agree. But in the absence of consensus amongst family members, our first focus should not be on rallying the war cry, but on loving the enemy. 

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