Sunday, October 19, 2008

Breaking My Silence

For over a month I haven't had much to say in the blog world. I was and am a bit tired of the demise of the political debate, so much so that I reflected on my wave of different emotions over the course of the election. Early on I was very excited to just learn more about the overall process. I've always voted, but I haven't always had an emotional tie to the issues, the candidates, the particulars of the contest and then some. A lot has changed over the last year.

About a week ago I received an email forward to an entire distribution list which left a really bad taste in my mouth. I didn't respond, I just made "a mental note to self" that forwards are really the death of smart communication. Shortly thereafter I received another forward, once again spouting a mix of half truths about the record of Barack Obama. Voting record and stance on core issues is not lost on me, the emails also had some clear facts sprinkled in race bated material about "how frightening" the thought of him becoming president was.

I decided to respond to the entire distribution list of the person who originated the forward, and I knew that I was most assuredly walking a slippery slope when I hit send. I had considered the person a friend, but I realized that no friend of mine could be responsible for the level of ignorance that was being shared openly without thought. At least, that was what I determined after I read both emails again. The result - a few additional forwards, a challenge email directly to me, and then being copied on subsequent notes to her email list about "those people" who had responded to her entire list unnecessarily. I responded purposefully, realizing that if I said nothing it might mean that the information would stand as acceptable and fact. I thought the poorly substantiated and openly refuted emails deserved a response. I probably lost an acquaintance or two (three, four maybe five) in the process. I got some new peers along the way though - not everyone agreed with the tactic and tone that still makes my skin crawl.

The moment that I mentioned race two people wrote me back and said, "you just must not know her," she's the furthest thing from a racist. I actually didn't call her a racist, and I didn't say that the information was racist - I said that the emails were race-bating - because code words are intertwined to catch the emotion of the reader, with regard to race. It makes me think of the word associations that we used to do in school...or at least that is what they did in my independent private school in Ohio. Here, the word association is both with regard to race, stereotypes, socio-economic differences, and the widening gap between those who have and those who have not.

The messages captured enough stereotypes for a great SNL routine, or a really irritated Black professional at the very least. I was treated to a MLK quote, rants about "conservative values", implications about "helping those undeserving people get houses they couldn't afford", "our taxes", references to name, religion, and political affiliations - as if there is a candidate in existence that doesn't have any history. I have not been in the Obama Choir from day one, even my excitement was buried in concerns about exactly how he could impact the policies and procedures which have led us down this road. Yet, I have up until recently had very civil conversations with people along all political affiliations. I helped elect Bush, I have plenty of reflection to do.

Contrary to the respondents on the list who questioned my Christianity, I am a Christian. I do believe that the same advocacy for life at inception should translate into concern about what happens to life when it gets here, needs an education, needs health care, needs a solid start in life...but that would be ridiculous. To challenge someone to think about the financial implications of the war, the military strategy and the failed weapons of mass destruction argument - it is getting harder and harder to do. My Republican spouse has been treated to all types of nasty little rants on the conservative sites he frequents, I don't even spend that much time surfing nowadays. If we can't disagree with some degree of respect - what does that say about us as individuals, often individuals raising another generation.

I pondered whether or not to respond to the emails point by point, the Muslim references, the Bill Ayers saga, the inexperience issue, and the implication that those who support him are somehow waiting for a government ride. It isn't my life, or the life of those nearest and dearest to me - but I'm starting to wonder if it should matter at all. The assumptions and stereotypes aren't going to be changed with my reality, in fact not facing reality seems to be a prerequisite for some of the vicious lies and urban legends that are distributed. The inability to see this election with any balance is becoming an increasing concern. The inability to understand the difference between minimum and living wage - well, when the originator of the forward highlighted this as scary - I started to wonder about the different worlds we live in. The negativity has reached an all time high, where lynching pictures, racial slurs, and calls for even worse behavior become a rallying cry. I don't want to be part of that dialog - it is the worst common denominator for our lowest selves. I want more.

So, I haven't been writing much. I spent most of the last few days exchanging emails with the half dozen people who quietly applauded my efforts to respond to the ridiculous forwards. I have enjoyed creating an Internet relationship with people of diverse backgrounds, who supported the idea of "knocking it off." Getting past our own comfort zones and mis-information in order to be more responsible for the paradigm that we operate within, that should be the call that we each have. I stumbled on a few posts of mine that made me think, smile or reflect - some passionate, some posted well before their time. One of my favorites though isn't one of mine at all, it was an Open Letter to "Mr. President" whomever, the president will be. I have a great regard for a 40 year old man drinking 38 year port, deciding to capture his thoughts, because it was the first post in recent weeks to make me think that there is an ounce of sanity still in existence. We don't have to like 100% of a persons politics to have a high regard for the office of president....(now check this out) REGARDLESS of who is elected.

I don't believe that you have to butcher someone to elevate your own case, or trash someone endlessly to instigate a reply. I think you can agree to disagree - but I think you have to be mindful of the challenges that rest in front of you. Most people speak in soundbites and political generalities. Unfortunately, our bumber sticker days are pretty much in full swing and the education process for voters (registration, early voting, clothing selection, facts vs. fiction) is tilted at best. When you stand up against crazy, you might become an army of 1.

I am thankful for the opportunity to live at such a time as this. I'll be relieved when the election is over - but I have come to believe, the foolishness probably has a long, long way to go.


Ronald Hayden said...

Thanks for the nice words, and the links!

I've added your site to my list and will keep an eye on it. Now you are stuck with a McCain supporter...:)

Aaron + Alaine said...

McCain Supporter - you are welcome to come visit anytime. I think the world is indeed made better when we can exchange and discuss ideas without vicious attacks. Imagine that - 2 people who could do the job in different ways, where we don't have to ascribe to every stereotype and half truth to simply prefer one over the other. Plus, iron sharpens iron.