I’m pretending that I’m doing a year-in-review, but really, I’m just out of sync with the news cycle. The entire nation has moved on to debating the fiscal cliff and pretending that climate change isn’t the most urgent issue on the table. It’s been waaaay over a month. Which in news-cycle time might as well be a decade.
Call me Slow News (don’t the capitals make it sound progressive and thoughtful rather than just torpid?): I’m still untangling my post-election emotions.
Okay, so we all got a wee bit anxious as the thing went on (and on and on) and at least for me, anxiety makes whatever emotional state I’m in seem glaringly permanent and Very, Very Important. So I can perhaps excuse my rash and repeated posting of “unfriend me, you rogues!” to all the FB Romney-likers, invoking Pre-Electoral Syndrome-induced temporary insanity. After all, I’ve always been proud of my ability to genuinely like people who have very (very) different political views than my own. So, whence the turnaround? Do I really want to claim that anxiety trumps tolerance? Yuck.
Like most humans, however, I’d like to find some believable excuse for my less attractive behavior, so I’m still turning it over in my mind: do I or do I not want to maintain friendships (Facebook-defined or otherwise) with people who do not support my own political views?
As I get older, I become more and more radicalized in my thinking, even if my behavior seems, well, suburban middle-class mainstream, for the most part. I believe that mountaintop removal coal mining is evil, and I don’t use that word lightly. I think the large-scale extraction of oil from tar sands is evil. I think fracking is evil. And since I’m confessing to my binary thinking about these issues, I might as well follow through with admitting that once you start down the “good versus evil” thought pathway, it pretty much takes you into intolerant territory.
I’m intolerant. Oh, the shame, in a psyche that theoretically embraces diversity. However, there it is. Visible to all who look back over my timeline.
But in my pre-election anxiety, did I unfriend Romney supporters because of his support for the Keystone XL pipeline? Nope. Rather, the issue that got me all hot and bothered was gay marriage. Which, I must say, is not usually anywhere near the top of my “activist causes” list. Really, if the whole planet is gonna fry, will it matter who’s married? At least, that’s my usual line.
This election, though, there was some wild-animal-defending-its-den that came out of me. My claws unsheathed, I ruthlessly demanded loyalty to my temporary cause, and recklessly reposted other people’s eloquently written “unfriend me if you are voting for Romney, because basically it means you don’t think I should have civil rights” messages. Grrrrrr.
Now, I’m wondering, what the hell was that about? It’s not like I’m now spending my time raising money for the marriage equality struggle. I’m right back in my anti-fracking t-shirt and divest-from-fossil-fuels mode. But I think I’m starting to get it.
I know, I’m slow. It’s taken me this long for it to sink in that this election is the first time I actually had a choice when it came to my civil rights status. Oh, yes, we all thought Bill Clinton was the cat’s pajamas for saying the word “gay” out loud. And then he signed the Defense of Marriage Act. Come to 2008, we all assumed that Obama was really pro-gay but he just “had to” say he was against gay marriage for political reasons. And maybe he did, the first time around. But as we have in the past with so many candidates, we were assuming the best based on our hopes, not based on anything actually stated.
This time it was different. I could cast my vote for someone who was against gay marriage or for someone who was for gay marriage. My personal freedom to marry was right there on the table where I filled out my ballot, as if maybe I should have had a right to it all along. And each of my friends would be making the same choice: the guy who thinks I should have civil rights, or the guy who doesn’t.
I want to be tolerant, reach my hand across the aisle and find areas of commonality. But this time around, with a choice so stark before me, I think it was okay for me to be asking the question: what are friends for?
(Thank you, my sole remaining right-leaning friend, for the eco-citation pictured above!)