Wednesday, September 24, 2008

I swear I am not going to get political

I am trying SO HARD to not bring up the election. SO HARD that really, it feels like my eyeballs are bleeding from the pressure I am exerting on my fingers to be still.

I wrote a column about this very topic recently, and I am going to post it here, instead of screaming my feelings about the goings on over the past few days. Because I truly do not want to offend anyone. And all I have to say is thank goodness I am supporting the candidate I am, otherwise I would be totally offended by the mail filling my inbox ! As it is, I eat it up, laugh out loud, and then delete, because I am too afraid to send it to someone who might not agree.

Well, here we are again. Primary season. I love the passion that is inherent in any election: the choices, the decisions, the speeches and pageantry. The one thing I could do a little less with is the snarky commentary/bumper stickers/t-shirts that seem to find their way into every election cycle.

I try (oh, how I try) to separate my personal political opinion from my dealings with the world at large. But it is always such a shock to discover someone that (up until now) you thought was a reasonable person is in fact supporting The Other Side.

Oh Dear. How awkward. Those comments made so casually at a dinner party, where you just assumed everyone held the same basic political beliefs? Yeah. Not so much, actually. Turns out they are supporting that yahoo that you would never even consider. And when the realization slowly dawns on you, as you are standing there sipping wine from a paper cup – that You May Have Said Something Offensive – all you can do is hope that they do not take political discussions as personally as you do. You run a mental playback of the conversation thus far, trying to remember what you may have said, and how offensive it may have been to someone voting for the other guy – the one you just spent half an hour criticizing at the top of your lungs.

Oh Dear. How rude. This is just so not like you, to offend, to disparage, to cause discomfort in your fellow man. And yet, there you sit, trying desperately to repair the damage you may or may not have caused thus far, without making it worse. Because of course, if you had KNOWN that that this group was bipartisan, you certainly wouldn’t have been so blunt. So demeaning. So self-righteous. No, of course not. And now, off to lambast your host for not warning you ahead of time (perhaps even in the invitation) that there would be members of both political parties at this event. But then, another possibility to consider. What if your host is ALSO supporting the other candidate? Well, that just opens up a whole can of worms.

Oh Dear. You had no idea. You just assumed that your friends all had the common sense to support the obvious choice, the only candidate that made any sense at all. If this host has dinner guests that do not share your political persuasion, it is quite possible that not only the host, but other friends may also be supporting the other candidate – the one you malign almost daily in your mass emails and phone calls. You certainly haven’t been quiet in your support of your candidate. Ardent would actually be an accurate description of your position. Passionate, even. You hand out stickers and pins, you wear t-shirts and hats, and bumper stickers proudly adorn every smooth object in your life – from filing cabinet to car window.

Oh Dear. Now you realize that other people – people you know, people you trust, people you speak to on a regular basis – these people may exercise their political freedom and vote for the other candidate. And once the realization dawns on you, and your eyes are opened to this possibility, you have to make the decision. Can your relationships survive this election?

And this is exactly where my mother would pull out her enormous hardcover edition of Miss Manners, and thumb through, looking for tips for you. “How to recover from inadvertently offending an entire political party” – is there a chapter on that, Mom? How about “Gentle conversation during the political season”? Because those are two key points that everyone needs to keep in mind – it doesn’t matter if you live in a red state or a blue state. Every state has members of both political parties running around willy-nilly, and chances are, you are going to bump into one of the “other guys” during the course of your day. You know the bumper sticker you proudly placed on the back of your car? The one about how the other guy is a total idiot, and only idiots would vote for him? It is like giving everyone who doesn’t agree with you the finger.

And so, to quote Miss Manners, “Gentle Reader” please be gentle. Be gentle in your dealings with your fellow man. Be gentle with your self. The only thing you can control are your own actions – both in and out of the voting booth. I have many close friends that are very politically active – and passionate about their politics. They volunteer for their candidate of choice, they register voters, and they read everything they can find about all of the candidates - not just their chosen candidate. If anyone is going to have an opinion, it should be an educated opinion. To choose one candidate above the others, you need to know why – and why not.

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