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Friday, October 21, 2016

Friends and Foes

I have written in the past about how election seasons drive me batty. The months of political ads. The candidates and proponents or opponents of various issues, who bludgeon voters with accusations about the opposing side rather than simply telling us what they stand for, what they hope to accomplish, what their dreams are for our state or our nation. It makes me cranky. Of course it's probably difficult for anyone to realize when this happens, since I am the self-proclaimed Meanest Woman in the World. Just trust me, it happens.

Like many others, I have lived through numerous elections. Heck, I can remember, back when I was a kid, watching President Lyndon B. Johnson on television announcing that he would not seek another term in office. I've seen issues come and go that hit people right in their hearts, minds, and sensibilities. I've cast my vote on issues ranging from a tax increase to fund a local water park to legalizing recreational marijuana, and all sorts of things in between. This year in Colorado we have ballot issues that include tobacco taxes, an increase to the minimum wage, state-run health care, and whether terminal patients should have the right to end their lives. 

Among all of these issues and candidates of both parties, there's been a common thread. We are all individuals, and we all have our own thoughts, feelings, and preferences. If we are willing to break with the excellent age-old advice to never discuss politics with friends, we do so knowing that our friends may be on the other side of an issue. We may state what we feel and maybe even why, but we won't try to change our friends' minds because we know that it just won't happen. We agree to disagree, because that is deep in the fabric of living in the USA. The freedom to choose and believe and think differently than others without fear of harm or reprisal. To paraphrase a quote attributed to Voltaire, we may disagree with what another says, but will defend to the death their right to say it.

After an election, some people feel happy and victorious and some feel disappointed and let down. But we move forward and the country keeps running and we work together and live side by side and dream of harmony. This is a Republic, and when we have elections, the majority rules. The people's opinions change, politicians change, and we ride on the ebb and flow of these tides. 

In recent years, I've seen many people losing sight of the fact that no matter what side of the fence we're on, we're all Americans. I have heard people refer to Presidents with comments like, "X isn't my President, I didn't vote for him." This comment really upsets me. Whether or not I am a big fan of whomever is elected, they are my President. They are who the majority has chosen. In this particular Presidential election cycle, these divisive feelings seem to have escalated to a level that I have never witnessed before. Although I am a student of history, I have not focused on the history of elections and the public's moods related to them. All I can say is that this race seems to have brought rancor to a new and disturbing level.

Modern communication may be making the problem worse; if you look at the comments on just about any story on the internet or social media, you will find it invariably results in someone turning things toward politics and name-calling. I have seen comments when a recipe is posted online saying that the only people who would like it are idiots that would vote for Candidate X. Of course, one or two cooler, more controlled commenters will observe that it's a recipe for a dip or a cake, not an article about a Presidential candidate. But time and time again, the bait is eagerly taken by someone on the other side of the fence. Name calling is the mildest of what follows.

We have seen videos of people who say that if a certain candidate is elected, they will do what they need to in order to save our nation. They hint at their willingness to assassinate the majority's choice for President if that person is not their choice. When did these people forget that the way we save our nation could be as simple as not trying to tear it apart?

Just yesterday we disagreed with a friend, whom we love dearly, about the candidates for President. We came in on opposite sides of the fence, as it were. We stated our various opinions but also realized that our differences were not something to fight over. We can have opposing political views and still be friends. We agreed to disagree, and we still love each other as friends do. No, we don't see ourselves as paragons of virtue. We're simply imperfect beings trying to respect one another in an imperfect world. I wish it would catch on. 


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