Disclaimer: This post takes the long way around to making a point, and may be considered meandering!
One thing that people should know about me is that I’m interested in politics and very liberal. Not that I actually want to BE in politics, my past was way too liberal for that and I’m pretty sure there’s too much photographic evidence that can be held against me. However, I am interested in following politics, keeping myself reasonably informed about legislation that is being passed and what kind of impacts it would make on our future.
This interest is a product of my upbringing. From the ages of 6 to 18, my dad would require me, my sister and brother to watch an hour and a half of news every night- two national and one local broadcast. At the end of that, we had to stand up and give an oral report on one of the news stories, making sure to answer the five key questions: who, what, where, when, why and how. I was expected to have three different articles in mind that I could report on because I was the oldest and my brother and sister got first crack at it. We weren’t allowed to repeat the stories another had chosen.
I have very distinct memories of watching the Berlin Wall come down on my television, and seeing Oliver North testify on the Iran-Contra scandal, as well as the images of students marching in Tienanmen Square. Most people my age remember those events primarily from their history books, but every night, I watched them unfold and reported on them in my living room.
I admit, there were a couple of years after leaving the house that I rebelled against the urge to watch the news every night. I would go weeks without catching any more than snippets of current events. However, with the invention and convenience of the internet, I found my way back to the fold. My news gathering has taken on a different form with the internet (as I expect most peoples’ have) but I’m once again paying attention to the events around me.
Last week, North Carolina passed Amendment 1. Amendment 1 does not ban gay marriage, they already had that on the books. This goes a step further and limits the types of domestic unions recognized by the state and considered valid.
Meaning, if you were homosexual and got married where it is legal- say, Massachusetts or New York- and then move to North Carolina, that union would not be considered legitimate. This could have serious impact on whether an employer could deny health insurance coverage to your spouse, or whether you’d be allowed to visit them in the hospital, not to mention legalities regarding child custody rights.
To be perfectly clear, I’m against this amendment and was saddened to hear another state in the Union choosing to legalize and reinforce bigotry. I know that there has been a lot of great headway recently in LGBT rights, but Amendment 1 served as a reminder that we have a LONG way to go. Which, is sad and unfortunate…and not altogether unexpected.
Most people who know me would probably say that I’m too idealistic and optimistic to think that our justice and legal system still has a chance at working. They probably think all my letters to Congress and political postings on Facebook are a waste of time and effort and that for the most part, I shouldn’t get my hopes up too high.
I can appreciate their perspective, I have a pretty healthy dose of cynicism towards our country’s politics and the dialogue surrounding them, too. However, there’s just something in me that can’t shut up about it. I keep thinking, if just one more person could get engaged and say something to their representatives, they could make a difference. At the very least, it would let our Congress people know that we are watching them and paying attention and hoping they vote in good conscious.
So, I pass along links and post pictures and thoughts about stuff that’s going on to my Facebook wall. Usually, I keep it limited to a few topics that specifically pertain to my group of friends; such as stopping SOPA, supporting Planned Parenthood or asserting my support for equal rights for LGBT.
Since most of my friends tend to be socially aware, it’s created a lot of great conversations and I’ve learned a lot from what they’ve posted as well. It’s nice being able to enter into healthy dialogue, especially if they don’t completely agree, or if they have something to add that I haven’t thought of before.
The problem is that I have a whole contingent of family that is SUPER conservative, and one aunt, in particular, that feels the need to come to my page and make absolutely hateful, prejudice remarks. I’ve tried to engage her in constructive conversation. I’ve tried to keep an open mind and figure out where she’s coming from and respect her perspective, but it never seems to go anywhere with her.
It doesn’t help that she has the barest grasp on how to write in the English language. She absolutely murders grammar and spelling, and sentence structure is a foreign concept to her. So, I’m not altogether sure I understand what she’s trying to say half the time and try to give her the benefit of the doubt or ask her to clarify what she means.
I think the first comment she left on my page was back in February of 2011. I had made a post saying I “stood” with Planned Parenthood. It was during the time Republicans were making a big push to shut off all funding for PP by cutting Title X. I had felt compelled to write a letter to my congressmen pleading with them not to vote for the bill and posted what I had written as a note on Facebook.
My aunt comes back with the comment, “and kill more black children than anything.” Ok, what? I think what she was trying to say was that Planned Parenthood killed more black children than anything, which is completely unfounded. It also had nothing to do with the point I was making, which was that Planned Parenthood helped me through the years when I didn’t have insurance. It is also vaguely racist to boot.
I made a post thanking vets for their service on Veterans’ Day and she responded, “vets can’t eat thank yous” and some birther shit about Obama. Most recently, she’s made a comment about a picture that I posted saying I support gay marriage. She said, “A bird c an call his self a fish is dosn’t make it so.”
Many of my friends suggested just ignoring her. Actually, I do ignore the posts she puts up and refrain from making comments on some of the anti-Obama, Muslim/ birther baiting, and overly religious, anti-gay stuff. However, I don’t feel comfortable not responding to the posts she leaves on my wall because I’m afraid my silence could be misinterpreted as agreeance.
You may be asking why I don’t just delete or block her. I’ve struggled with that question for over a year now and I think it boils down to two things.
Firstly, no matter how far apart we are on the political spectrum, she’s still my family. I have warm memories of visiting her and my cousins during the summer. I still have a good relationship with my cousins and wouldn’t want to cause a rift or discomfort between us.
The other reason is a little less tangible. I think it’s possible (or should be, anyway) for two opposing views to have a reasonable, tactful conversation without resorting to personal attacks. We should be able to communicate, and if I “unfriend” her, it’s as if I’m giving up first.
Unfortunately, I’m closing the door and admitting defeat. Perhaps my disappointment is a matter of ego. I’d like to think I could change someone’s mind or make a difference in someone’s perspective. I try to be open to that kind of change, myself. (Although, I admit it can be a struggle.) Knowing how entrenched my aunt is, she’s probably a lost cause. Come to think of it, she probably feels the same way about me…since I am a sinning, cussing heathen and all.