I’ve seen it at least half a dozen times on my Facebook wall–people who will write a status asking anyone who has clicked like on things like Romney, Paul Ryan, or the GOP, to just go ahead and defriend them now. Then they’ll list the reasons why a mouse click for the political right is so offensive. I don’t disagree that a vote for Republicans, generally speaking, is a vote against reproductive rights, LGBT civil rights, and the like, because yes, the GOP’s political platform reads that they’re opposed to those rights and communities. And even if Mitt Romney himself is in favor of a “rape exception” for abortion–even if there are no health practitioners in a given area to perform an abortion because overall the climate has dampened training in those procedures–his colleagues have been arguing quite forcefully that they will continue to push legislation that outlaws all abortions no matter the mitigating circumstances. So I understand that the nuances at play in our political parties are not enough reason to absolve members of a given party from the consequences they wreak on our fellow Americans.
But I’m not jumping on the defriend bandwagon. I read the primary narrative of FoxNews as divisive, pitching conservative keyword after keyword to their faithful audience, and attempt after attempt at alienating the rest of us from watching. It’s a process wherein less and less motivation falls on FoxNews to double-check their facts and sources, until disinformation is all they telecast, reality be damned. What does it mean to live in a country where a vocal minority attempts to steep an entire political party in hate and anger, and people at the other end of the spectrum point fingers and laugh derisively or shout back in frustration? When we dismiss each other as lost causes, what are we left with?
Well, I don’t need to hypothesize. We’re there already. We’ve got millions of folks in this country who have given up on the political process, the idea of government–the government that paved our highways, set up our telecommunications infrastructure, founded our public education system, and decided our children should breathe clean air, our elders should not live in poverty, and our indigent should have a support structure–but most importantly, we have given up on each other. We’ve let extremists on the right take over Christianity until it’s become a warped, decidedly un-Jesus-like institution that blames the poor for their poverty, blames the sinners (ahem, isn’t that all of us) for every ill and weather calamity that befalls the country, and blames civil rights for the end of society. Those same extremists have moved the Republican Party from talk about freedom and the merits of small government to a series of economic hoodlumism that is unsustainable by nearly every economic theory and standard out there, and that requires unacceptable rollbacks in things like workers rights, a reasonable tax structure, and regulations that protect against greed by Wall Street fat cats.
I know that’s not what Christianity stands for. Yes, I believe in God (with a good dose of universe-froo frooness thrown in), and I think Jesus Christ was awesome, if you look at what’s been ascribed to him in word and deed. No, I’m a registered Democrat, having voted for that party in every election except my first one; I voted for George Bush the elder, when he won against Mondale. I pressure fellow Christians about being more open to ignoring old Leviticus scripture–since chances are they’re already out of “compliance” with most of it–but I can’t push the GOP from within if I’m not one of them.
This impatience to support each other as complex human beings goes beyond political parties, of course. Take the rift between adults who have children and those who don’t. To the adult without kids, I look like I’ve given up my life for the sake of having a permanent subordinate around, pulling at my pant legs. To the adults with kids, those without are often called selfish and strange because they’ve attached to hobbies or objects instead of helping to raise children. And of course we can point to examples–there’s always a damn example–where these moments have struck like lightning bolts, but to color whole groups of people as our least functional instances is the heart of stereotyping.
I know people who are card-carrying GOP members, and they love me and want me to have a full, happy life. It is my hope that they also encourage their fellow Republicans to leave behind the divisive policies about abortion, same-sex marriage, immigration, and health care reform. I support Maureen Walsh in her reelection campaign, because the GOP needs many more Maureen Walshes. I will not defriend people online because they click “like” for Mitt Romney, but I can’t promise I won’t make a lemon face when I see it, because I think he’s a terrible representative of his party and a mean person to boot. But let’s remember that is was the Republicans who pushed many southern Democrats away from their stubborn support of segregation. Democrats do not have the market on moral righteousness. Moreover, Planned Parenthood may be the contemporary vanguard for affordable health care for women and the largest group advocating for reproductive rights, but it started out as a eugenics experiment. Those extreme views needed to get pushed out of those organizations, for obvious reasons.
Middle-of-the-road is a hard spot to occupy, and it comes with some built-in problems, but right now, we need to hear from the folks in the middle. Yes, we need a left swing because if we were to grant all of the requests by the right-most standing advocates, we would no longer be living under “American values,” and that’s not something we should abide. We can’t throw our friends, family, and neighbors under the bus because we hate the group they’re in. We need them now more than ever, so that we can all get on a more loving, support road to our future.