Politics

Grow A Vagina And Get Back To Me

The link I wanted my girlfriends to see…the one that led me to yoga

Today I did something I don’t often do. I posted to my Facebook page a link to something that is a politically charged issue. I usually avoid any sort of post that might in any way be construed as inflammatory. I usually do this because I’m not a big fan of conflict, and I don’t necessarily like to splatter my political, religious, or other personal views all over Facebook for the universe to see. Today, though, I got a wild hair and thought some of my girlfriends would appreciate a link to a web page that interested me. The page offered a petition called The Bill of Reproductive Rights. Created by the Center for Reproductive Rights, the bill’s mission is to let lawmakers in Washington, DC, know that women want safe, affordable, and readily accessible reproductive health care. Call me crazy, but as a woman, I care about this issue. Deeply. So, I posted the link intending to share it with my girlfriends who might also care deeply. The can opener turned. Wouldn’t you know it? Worms. Everywhere.

Within fifteen minutes, I had received a post on my link from a friend I knew from college my freshman and sophomore year. The minute I saw his name, I knew his comment would be contentious. You see, this fellow and I are about as far opposite each other on the political spectrum as you can get. Sure enough. He had seen my post and had something to say. I was already regretting my decision. I read his post and took a deep breath. Against my better judgment, I decided to reply to his comment. My comment was short and sweet. I told him that if he didn’t appreciate my right to my own opinion, he was welcome to hide my posts or block me from his Facebook world entirely. I thought that would end the argument. I mean, how could he possibly take it any further, right? Wrong. He took my comment as an invitation, apparently, to enlighten me about how clueless I am. Cheese and Rice. Are you kidding me? His next comment was 158 words long. Yes. I checked. 158 words to elucidate how clearly misguided I am as to what is important with regard to this election…at least for him. Here’s an exact quote:

This whole war on women is a straw man, a distraction that is used to draw attention away from our economy and ALL people’s freedoms being radically eroded.

Well, I can understand why he would see things that way. There are a lot of issues about which to be concerned this election, just as in any election. But for me, this “war on women” will never be just a “straw man” because I have a vagina. It matters a great deal to me what legislators think is okay for me to do with and for my lady parts. Some people want the government to keep their hands out of business. I want them to keep their hands out of my business, my lady business. I did not, contrary to the beliefs of some, post my link to foster a debate. I was simply sharing information. I was not looking for an argument or asking for input. In fact, after I read my friend’s 158-word post, I did what any good feminist, hippie, liberal would do. I took a deep breath and went to yoga to seek the enlightenment my friend was trying to give me.

This election is close. We all have a lot at stake, but that doesn’t mean we have to get in each others’ faces about it. I see political posts by friends every single day that run counter to my own beliefs. But, I don’t hop onto their personal Facebook pages and vomit my opposition all over the place because I respect their right to their opinions and beliefs. I choose to agree to disagree. I’m comfortable with my beliefs and no one, no matter how emphatic their comments are, will change my mind until it’s ready to be changed. End of story. And, yes, friend…I am receptive to honest, intellectual give and take on the subject of women’s reproductive rights. And, the minute you grow a vagina so you have a legitimate stake in this issue, let me know and I’ll take you up on that offer. I’m not unreasonable. I just think you should know a bit about the subject before you discuss it.

Don’t Eat Something That Doesn’t Agree With You…Befriend It

Somewhere lost in our pit of a house, probably stuck in between pages in a book on a bookshelf, is a copy of one of my favorite comic strips ever. I cut it from our college newspaper way back when. The cartoon depicts two alligators, one shoved into the other’s mouth. A banner hangs above their heads that reads “Alligator Debate.” The caption reads, “Al suddenly realized he’d just eaten something that didn’t agree with him.” It cracks me up every time I think about it.

As I watched the presidential debate tonight, I simultaneously followed my Facebook and Twitter feeds. Don’t ask me why I would do this. Clearly, this being the first election in which I had access to such a broad spectrum of individuals via social media, I had no idea what I was getting myself into. While hoping, I suppose, to get a more well-rounded view of what other Americans thought of the debate, all I succeeded in doing was giving myself an even bigger headache than I already had. At one point during the debate, I told my husband that my favorite part of the debate is when it’s over. At least then the fact checkers get the opportunity to dissect what has been said and let us know what was legitimate and what was bunk. At that point I’m ready to start considering what I’ve heard, but I never start the process until I know what’s fact and what’s fiction. Unfortunately, I don’t think (based on what I saw on social media tonight) that very many people take the time to reserve judgment or to consider the other side.

Thomas Jefferson once said, “I never considered a difference of opinion in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend.” I haven’t either, which is why I love this quote. Most of my Facebook friends fall far from me on the ideological scale. If I were to unfriend those with whom I have a serious a difference of opinion in politics, religion, or philosophy, I’d be cleaning out the vast majority of the 311 folks on my list. While I won’t deny that I get great satisfaction from my conversations with the friends who see life through a similar lens, I learn an awful lot from those who disagree with me. So, even as those friends are making comments that make my eyes roll, I wouldn’t withdraw my friendship. Their ideas, beliefs, and opinions, only inform and enhance mine. Although, on nights like tonight when I am bombarded by opinions 180-degrees from my own, I have to dig really deep to hold true to Jefferson’s quote. I have to remember how important difference of opinion is to intellectual growth. And, yes. I have to remind myself not to want to eat the friends who disagree with me.

(If I manage to find that comic, I will post it here. I’m still smiling thinking about it.)

You Say You Want A Revolution…

Luke shows me a political ad on a Lego video on You Tube

The other day I wrote about the political process and how my children are seeing it play out at school. I got a great comment on that blog from my friend, Ken, who said he is troubled by the notion that children in grade school are becoming involved in the discussions in the first place. I see where he’s coming from, at least with regard to the bitterness, back biting, and general nastiness that seem to accompany politics-as-usual these days. Still, there is a part of me that feels that kids should have some knowledge of politics even if they’re incapable of understanding it in any reasonable depth. (Heck…I wish that same thing for most of the voting-eligible adults in this country.) My main interest in making sure my children are at least aware of the political process stems from a purely educational stance. I want them to learn early on that people disagree and see things differently, yet we still need to find some way to work and live together despite disparate views. Yes. I am highly idealistic. I know.

Today, though, instead of teaching my son a lesson about politics in this country, he taught me one.

“So, who are you going to vote for, Luke?” I queried, waiting for his annoyed response at my nonsensical question.

“I can’t vote, Mom,” he replied with exasperation. “I’m not a grown up.”

“Okay. You’re right. But, if you could vote, what would you be thinking?” I asked.

“Well,” he replied in all earnestness, “judging from the ads I’ve seen lately I don’t think either of them is a very good choice.”

Ummm….excuse me?

“What political ads have you seen?” I asked. This is a legitimate question on my part because we watch very little television in this house, and our boys are subsequently shielded from the disproportionate number of ads via that type of media.

“The ones before the Lego videos I watch on You Tube,” he said.

Ah, yes. The You Tube videos. How could I forget?

“Oh. Well, what are the ads saying?”

“Obama’s weak on terrorists and Romney’s going to break his promises to seniors regarding health care.”

Holy hell. The words, as they spilled carelessly from his nine year old mouth, were not his. He was repeating ad copy word for word. It scared the bejeezus out of me.

“You do realize that you can’t believe everything you hear, right?”

“I know,” he said. Then he changed the subject and reminded me that he would like The Avengers movie on DVD as soon as possible.

The whole conversation gave me pause, though. Why are political ads appearing before Lego videos on You Tube? Who is the mastermind behind that genius plan? Let’s hope that the ads on You Tube videos appear randomly. If this pairing isn’t accidental, then it would seem our political parties are attempting to indoctrinate our children quite young. This would be eerily similar to Hitler’s youth approach, but hopefully without the appalling genocide result.

I swear my life keeps becoming more and more complicated. Now, instead of merely explaining to my boys about the Viagra ads they have inadvertently become the targets of, I also need to deflect obnoxious political commentary. I tell you. I don’t get paid enough for this parenting gig for the amount of work I put into it. I keep trying to stay one step ahead of the game, but I keep getting tripped up when I least expect it. Political advertising on Lego videos. Seriously? Lightbulb! Whoa. Hold the phone. Wait just one minute. I wonder…if I made my own ads about room cleaning and doing the dishes and placed them with the Lego videos, do you think I could start a revolution, a tidal wave of conscientious children creating clean houses? Maybe I could change the world with that approach? Or, at least maybe I could change my own world. Anyone want to go in with me on the advertising costs?

 

What’s So Funny About Peace, Love, And Understanding

The current political climate in this country is making me nauseous. The amount of venom flowing from both sides of the political spectrum is unnerving at best and unpatriotic at worst. I believe in the two party system. I like the way the differences balance each other out. I think our forefathers created something great here. But, somewhere in the recent past, we came to a point where there is no longer a capacity to agree to disagree and to find common ground despite our disputes. Somewhere along the line, we became unable to view compromise as a viable option. Truth is, though, that is how our government was designed to work. If we can’t reach across party lines, then the balance our forefathers sought is impossible and everything is out of whack.

I’ve been thinking about this a great deal lately as the presidential election nears because of things I’m hearing my children say. Our boys attend a fairly homogenous school where they are at a distinct disadvantage. It would be a safe assessment to admit that roughly 98% of the parents at my boys’ school will be voting the same way during this next election. And, yes, our household is in the 2% who will likely vote the other way. Our boys, smart kids that they are, realize that they are in the minority. They hear what their classmates are saying about the election and they are honestly afraid to join the conversation because they don’t want to admit that our household is different. They are afraid to be ostracized. Joe, specifically, has mentioned hateful things his classmates have said regarding political candidates. I know they’re just kids repeating their parents’ views, but that is what frightens me. We’re passing on this culture of narrow-mindedness to the next generation. I’m afraid it will never end.

Growing up, I knew what my parents political beliefs were. I knew that Ronald Reagan made my mom nervous and that my dad was not too impressed with Jimmy Carter. Through my parents’ political differences, I came to accept the discourse between the two parties as part and parcel of a democratic society. I was never afraid to express my views. I grew up willing to stand up for what I believed or at least being willing to talk about it. My boys are too fearful to do the same. I wish they felt it was worth it to state their opinions, but it’s not. They’re growing up in a country where differences are problematic and where compromise is considered weakness.

If I had one great Miss America wish for this country, it’s that I wish we could throw off intolerance and hatred. Someone who disagrees with us is not an enemy. At the end of the day, we all want the same things. We want a better life for our children, a stable and safe country to live in, the right to live within our own belief system, all wrapped up in peace and prosperity. Just because we don’t see eye to eye doesn’t mean we should perpetuate an environment of hatred. I’m trying to teach my children that tolerance is important, and you can’t do that with words alone. You have to live it. When Christ said, “love thy neighbor,” He meant it…and not simply when it’s convenient or when they share your world view. How do we teach our children to play nicely if we can’t?

Social Media Manages To Make Politics Even More Distasteful

Here’s a good place for politics…a rally.

I dislike elections for many reasons. The flyers from candidates litter my mailbox. The cold calls from campaign offices soliciting my vote always interrupt dinner. The non-stop political advertising on television makes me do the unthinkable…turn off my television. The constant barrage of information, disinformation, and misinformation create an epic cacophony in my brain. In the six months directly preceding any election, I completely understand why some people are driven down the rabbit hole only to reemerge in outhouse-sized shacks in the chilly environs of isolated Montana where they can quietly stew in their hatred whilst planning attacks on the misguided government. If the founding fathers were here today to witness the degradation of a political process they so highly esteemed, they would determine that they should have spent less time drafting a thoughtful constitution and more time drinking and fondling barmaids.

And, just when I thought that my distaste for the election process could not be amplified, Facebook and Twitter came along to prove me wrong. Now, in addition to the aforementioned flyers, cold calls, and television ads, I get to endure the rantings and ravings of people I once considered sane enough to befriend via social media. Of course, all these friends are convinced they are posting facts (and not bastardizations of information that once held a modicum of legitimacy). The links to articles from often dubious sources are usually chock full of erroneous factoids. If the links themselves weren’t bad enough, they are nearly always accompanied by a personal diatribe so vitriolic that I wish I could wash my brain out with soap. Sometimes it’s like seeing a display of their ugly nakedness that is now burned into my brain; I will never look at them the same way. It’s disturbing.

So, why do people who appear normal on most days suddenly become rabid political junkies who feel the need to express themselves endlessly before an election? I used to think it was because they thought they might be able to change a misguided mind (and by “misguided mind” I’m referring to the mind of someone whose political views differ from their own, clearly correct views). But, seriously…when does that ever work? Not to get all pop music on you, but John Mayer’s lyrics seem so apropos here: “Is there anyone who ever remembers changing their mind from the paint on a sign? Is there anyone who clearly recalls ever breaking rank at all for something someone yelled real loud one time?” It doesn’t happen. By the time we are adults, most of us have more or less determined the things that are important to us. Plus, we’re stubborn and don’t like to be told what to believe. So, when you post something in an attempt to discredit or belittle another viewpoint, people immediately go into childish “la la la” mode with their fingers in their ears. You will not persuade them no matter what you say because they stopped listening the minute you implied they were too stupid to know what is “right.” Your lack of respect for their views garnered nothing but an immediate lack of respect for yours.

Years ago, my well-meaning husband told me he wanted to form a new political party called the Manners Party. It’s his assertion that people in this nation have lost their ability to treat others with respect and common decency. People are no longer capable of holding their tongues and listening with open minds or holding a door open for a stranger or even giving up a seat for someone who needs it more. We’ve become a nation of individuals with little or no concern for anyone or anything but ourselves. We’re the only ones who matter, the only ones who know anything. We’re a nation of people who feel we deserve something whether or not we’ve earned it. Just because we have rights to freedom of speech and freedom of the press does not mean we should use our rights to chastise, attack, or otherwise denigrate those with whom we do not agree. The media attacks on political candidates are only worsened through the use of social media. Blatant untruths about political candidates are bandied about on Facebook as if they were hand delivered by God. Anyone can say anything, and they usually do.

When I was younger, I looked forward to elections because they gave me the opportunity to learn more about the candidates and the political process. Now elections only offer me the opportunity to learn more about the self-righteous political views of my friends and associates, as presented through whatever biased, self-promotional media outlet they’ve chosen to revere. Oh…I still try to look forward to elections. But now I look forward to them in the knowledge that as soon as they’re over my social media news feeds will go back to being filled with random quotes from cute kids and clever ideas reposted from Pinterest that remind me that, underneath our political posturing and self-serving rants, we aren’t that different after all. We all enjoy a good lolcats once in a while.