Election ugliness: a politics ostrich and (social) media

110511_Election

This post on a friend’s Facebook wall really hit me in the gut.  It was an instant call to a bevy of emotions that I have been feeling about this election season and why I worry about the state of the world beyond the election of a single man at the helm of our country.  Why is it inevitable that politics devolve into an ugly chorus?  Where is the beauty of the democracy that we were taught in our elementary school classes?

I used to be an adamant politics “ostrich”, preferring to stick my head way in the sand rather than picking a side in each election’s inevitable ugliness.  I’ve actually uttered the words “I’m not really into the politics thing” and meant it.

Before bashing this Facebook friend, his words, or his method of delivery, I had to check myself:

  • We are not close friends, nor have we ever been.  We have not had remotely similar experiences in our life beyond our high school days.  It has been a long time since we exchanged words in person, possibly long before we were ever out of high school.
  • I have learned more about viewpoints that are dissimilar to mine, in a way that would not be possible without the advent of social media.  I have been forced to examine a few issues and either re-form my opinions and or re-confirm my beliefs.
  • I don’t believe for one minute that my friend is ignorant, radical, or redneck.  I also don’t believe that he is troll-baiting either, but one never knows about that until you engage.
  • I have not “unfriended” him because I have been honestly interested in understanding how other people might view the world, and I also have a healthy worry about “filter bubbles” that present us with information that only strengthens the reality that we believe in.  (See Eli Pariser’s TED talk on filter bubbles:  http://www.ted.com/talks/eli_pariser_beware_online_filter_bubbles.html).

However, this post really got me.  It hasn’t left my head since he posted it on Saturday.  Why do these specific words speak louder than the din of ugly election advertisement? 

It boils down to one big thing: Respect for others’ personal choices.  You know, come Wednesday (maybe) when all the dust has settled and things have been decided, the country has spoken, and under the system in this “beautiful” democracy of imperfect (wo)men, there will have been a decision that many have made based on some subset of personal values.  Why should I feel guilty for choosing what I believe is right for me and MY future children and grandchildren?

I have navigated this election by speaking about my priorities.  And if my priorities cause others to shift their priorities and change their mind, well, that’s cool.  And I listen to other people’s priorities.  And if that causes me to change my mind, that’s cool too.

I have never told anyone that their priorities are stupid.  And I feel like this post hit right at that nerve.  It has put a dent in the smooth stream of informed discourse that I have come to expect from him, and has forever changed how I will read his world.

Tomorrow, I will vote for President Barack Obama.  I will vote for Elizabeth Warren in MA.  My priorities are to protect my body, my interests, and to preserve the hope that a “post-racial” America might exist. Those are my priorities, and they don’t have to be yours.  You can vote for whoever you want to based on your own priorities, and I will not tell you that they are stupid.  I will continue to try to see the world through your eyes as long as you don’t tell me that I can’t see it through my eyes.

Also, most of us will survive 4 years of whatever happens.  To those who may not, think about them, and see where they fall in the scope of your priorities.

One last political plug:  this “beautiful” democracy can’t happen if you don’t vote.  Even if you think your vote doesn’t matter, a non-vote is deference to someone else’s personal choices.  I think back to 2000, when my friend from Miami-Dade County did NOT send his absentee ballot back because he didn’t think it would matter.  Please vote mindfully tomorrow – and respect others’ personal choices.

P.S.  I am not perfect about respecting others – no one is.  But I’d like to think that I try, and that I welcome people to challenge my assumptions.

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