We need to set something straight about politics and “different opinions”
Over the last few days, I’ve seen a fundamental misunderstanding on social media of the purpose of politics and its effect on everyday lives. I’m talking about the question a lot of us have faced lately over whether we can continue to be friends (social media friends or otherwise) with people who helped elect fascist, racist, homophobic, anti-Semitic, misogynistic, ableist, likely-rapist Donald Trump to the highest office in the country.
Over and over, people on facebook are telling me that I shouldn’t hold our “differences of opinion” against them. “It’s just politics,” they’re saying. “Respect my beliefs.” They’re just “different views” that shouldn’t have anything to do with how I view them on a personal level. People are telling me that to unfriend someone is to insulate myself from hearing the other side, preventing me from learning and engaging. It’s a “divisive act” to blame someone for how they vote, I’ve been told. After all, if by unfriending someone I’m making them feel bad for their beliefs, aren’t I bullying them? Don’t I want them to respect my beliefs?
Or, I’ll let this meme sum it up:
So here’s what we need to clear up: Your vote is not a “view” or a “belief.” Voting is an action. By voting for Donald Trump, you have taken an action that has done something to me and people I love. You haven’t simply held a “different opinion” in the quiet of your heart and not let it affect our relationship. You have chosen to take an action informed by that opinion, and the action you have taken is one that puts me and millions of others in harm’s way.
If hearing that makes you feel bad about yourself, that’s not on me.
“Even so,” people are saying, “chances are he won’t be able to do much anyway. Checks and balances will keep him from destroying America. And he’s not even President yet! Why are people so upset that they lost?”
Putting aside the fact that his party controls the Executive branch, the Legislative, and soon the Judicial, and he has the potential to do a staggering amount of damage, my concern is — right now, today, this minute — on the interpersonal level. Because right now, the things his supporters are doing— not you, maybe, but people encouraged and empowered by the candidate you voted for — are horrific.
Let’s take a quick look around the country. (Keep scrolling).
Those are just eleven examples out of literally hundreds that have been flooding social media over the last two days. You may not be going out and doing these things. I hope you’re not. But you voted for a candidate who ran a campaign thriving on this exact level of divisiveness and hatred. You helped rubber-stamp him and have emboldened his supporters who are doing these things.
Do you not want to be associated with those people? That’s not something I did.
I saw one post the other day from someone who said she found the tenor of facebook “shocking” lately, because she couldn’t believe that “grown adults” were such “sore losers.” She felt that she’d been “bullied” by people trying to make her feel bad for her vote.
Want to tell the people on the receiving end of the above incidents that those of us who are upset about the election of a white supremacist are the real bullies?
What has been happening is not that people are being sore losers. We’re not just disappointed that our candidate lost. We are hurt. We are in fear. We are afraid for ourselves and our loved ones, not because of your “opinion,” or your “beliefs,” but because of something you did, and because of what other people — who did what you did — are doing to people like us. And we are disappointed that you, someone we knew and trusted and thought had our best interests in mind, “prioritized other things” over preventing a candidate like Donald Trump from rising to unimaginable power over our lives.
The political is the personal. You cannot separate the two. Not when the action you have taken has already had a measurable, negative impact on individual lives, and by all accounts, will continue to do so over the next four years, if not for a generation to come.
Do you feel bad that we’re afraid? That’s not my fault.
People, even other liberal, minority friends who have also reported feeling depressed and afraid since Tuesday night, have told me that to unfriend people puts me in a bubble and doesn’t leave me open to other ideas, making me “just as closed-minded” as the other side.
But, sorry-not-sorry, I am not open to the idea that America should be run by a racist, sexist, misogynistic, homophobic, Islamophobic, likely-rapist fascist. I am not open to the idea that I should be ashamed for being who I am, or that I should just “get over” the fact that we now have a government that thinks I should have been forced into government-funded conversion therapy, or that gay kids who are younger than me should still be. I do not want to politely, carefully, thoughtfully, benefit-of-the-doubt-it’s-not-personal-it’s-politics consider why you voted for a Vice President who thinks I should be arrested if I try to apply for a marriage license with another man, or that women who have miscarriages need to hold funerals or else be thrown in jail. I am not open to the idea that we need to register all Muslims in the country and prevent any more from entering our borders. I am not okay with having our Attorney General likely soon to be someone who thinks Black Lives Matter is a terrorist organization. I am proudly, openly, emphatically not open to having my mind changed on those fronts.
Trust me, unfriending you doesn’t put me in a bubble and it doesn’t make me unaware that your beliefs exist. Minorities go through our lives every single day painfully aware of the intricacies of each particular brand of prejudice that you have just helped put in a position of power. Maybe you don’t personally think gay people should be electro-shocked until they’re straight. Maybe you’re okay with the mere existence of Islam. Maybe you were voting more because you liked Trump because he’s run businesses, and who cares if he ran most of them into the ground, we need our country to be run like a business.
Yes, technically, you had the right to vote that way. You demand the right to vote that way. I understand not wanting people to tell you how to vote.
But I demand the right to tell you why that action — again, not your belief, not your view, your action — hurts, to try to make you see how it puts me and people I love in danger. Why it makes me afraid to walk outside. And yes, why your action has made me view you differently. And, if necessary, I demand the right to step back, to take time to hurt and to heal and to consider how this action you have taken informs any potential relationship we may have going forward.
So that’s why, if you’re ~*offended*~ and ~*hurt*~ that I consider you partially at fault for why I have spent the last few days depressed and afraid for the future, I’ll unfriend you. And I won’t feel bad about it.