In my daily life, I am often with like political minds; it’s a comfort, but it only represents a portion of my life. I have always loved knowing that my circle of friends goes far beyond that and Facebook has made it possible to connect with people I’ve known and loved since childhood. If I post something personal about my work or my children or dogs, many are there to like; but when I post something remotely political, the numbers drop.
What does the silence mean? Avoidance of conflict? And yet, avoidance is dangerous; we cannot afford to pretend that this political chasm does not exist and is getting broader all the time. I, too, would rather look at photos of children and kittens and maintain a friendly connection, yet, I also have to speak, terrified by the seeds of hatred and violence that are being sewn as this administration attempts to play us all as fools, pitting us against one another as if we are all on some vapid television show, instead of living our lives and trying to preserve democracy so that our children (all children!) and our grandchildren (the very ones whose pictures we love to like) might have a better life.
But, how do we bridge the differences with rational communication instead of spewing vitriol or hiding behind kittens and butterflies? We unfriend people because we find their beliefs offensive but what do we accomplish? What is the way out? These are people, friends, we spent years of our youth with, in school and places of worship, ballgames, proms or whatever gatherings our small town allowed; these are our first friends and loves, the people who populate our childhood memories; they have attended funerals of our loved ones and congratulated us on the birth of children; they are neighbors and have come to the aid of others in times of disasters (think recent hurricanes) in an area all but forgotten by much of the state, not to mention the country.
There are pieces missing in this equation and it has driven me crazy for over two years; I find it hard to dismiss people and close doors without trying to at least find a bridge and understand why they are taking such a stand or no stand at all. In the past, it was possible to respect the work or career or heart of someone who held a different political view; you might come to a political stalemate but somehow agree to disagree and remain connected because of your love for a particular community and the people who live there as well as a respect for the Constitution and the principles upon which this country was founded—freedoms granted to all people. But these days, the bridge is washed out and I advocate loud and long that a BRIDGE is what is needed instead of walls.
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During the 2016 election, I heard people say: I voted against Hillary. I voted with my middle finger. I did not vote. My question to those is: what now? Would you (will you?) betray those whose rights and freedoms are threatened? Friends of color or a different faith? Those who bravely went out to find their places in the LGBT community? Do you believe that it is okay to mock others? To grab women who don’t want to be grabbed? To make racist and misogynistic comments? Do you not believe the science of global warming? And if you’re a woman, do you really not believe you’re an equal?
And what of the Christian values often claimed and flaunted? Where did compassion go? My understanding is that compassion was the very heart of what Jesus taught, but it seems that compassion is as lost to this administration as honesty, otherwise they would denounce all hate crimes and seek better gun control and protect the environment for generations to come. This is not an administration where you can pick and choose one issue with the assurance that the structure of democracy will protect you. That structure is being threatened and the more division created among we the people, the greater the threat.
If those who cast that 2016 vote are having doubts about where this administration is going, please let them speak out and help build a bridge instead of a wall. That is my sincere hope; I keep hoping that some spark of honesty, compassion and goodness might catch and spread and save us before it’s too late.