There’s a reason I keep my Facebook page politics-free, and it has little to do with being a journalist.
I don’t like conflict. I don’t like name-calling, and I really, really don’t like intolerance and ignorance.
Sadly, there’s nothing like a contentious election season to bring out all of the above. But I purposely keep my political views to myself. In fact, for someone who’s written a column about her underwear, I’m actually an intensely private person. Imagine my surprise when I found myself unfriended by a family member following the election.
My apparent offense? I “liked” a comment another family member had left that repudiated a label often used during passionate political posts. The label? “Privileged white male.” The PWM in question explained why he was tired of his opinions being dismissed with this label and I liked his explanation.
Bam. Apparently, hitting the like button on that comment exceeded her tolerance level. Keep in mind I’d never disagreed or argued with anything this person had posted.
I’m not alone in my experience. A friend was banished from Facebook friendship by a family member because he admitted he’d left the presidential spot blank on his ballot. He couldn’t stomach either option, so he did what he felt was honorable.
He was accused of being a sexist, racist jerk and told that he should … well, I can’t print the rest of the rant in a family newspaper.
When imagined incorrect interpretations are applied to Facebook likes, when rage and rhetoric rule the day, how then can our country and our community move forward? Is it possible to stand and fight for causes and people we’re passionate about without dipping buckets into wells of hatred and splattering others with venom and vitriol?
I’d like to think it is. Perhaps part of the solution is getting to know the “other” among us.
In the weeks preceding the election I had coffee with a friend who said she honestly didn’t know anyone who would vote for Donald Trump. She was joyfully planning a small voting victory party for election night.
That same week I had lunch with a friend who said she didn’t know anyone who would actually vote for Hillary Clinton. “Of course, that doesn’t mean she won’t win,” my friend said. “It’s just that I can’t imagine anyone I know choosing her.”
My reticence renders me like Switzerland, so both of these friends felt comfortable tossing around labels about people who would vote for the candidates they opposed.
“Underclass, undereducated, sexist bigots,” my liberal friend opined.
“Sensitive snowflakes, elitists and whiny millennials,” my conservative friend asserted.
And therein lays the problem. The minute we apply a blanket label to anyone who may vote differently from us, we’ve ensured our bubble is intact. We have become so comfortable in our social and political isolation that we have lost touch with the wider world.
This past week I’ve seen an outpouring of grieving and gloating on social media, and while the hateful rhetoric of some shocked and saddened me, I was relieved that my closest circle of friends had more measured thoughtful reactions.
Whether frightened or hopeful about the next few years, I hope the path forward will include listening and learning from those who differ from us. Hatred can never be part of the solution.
Violence won’t beget tolerance or peace. Rage doesn’t lead to enlightenment.
Our children are watching. They’re listening to our words. They’re reading our posts on social media. If we truly want to create a safe world for them to thrive in, we owe it to them to forge ahead with courage and to take every opportunity to choose love.
The words of Martin Luther King Jr. have never been more apt, “I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear.”
Contact Cindy Hval at email@example.com. She is the author of “War Bonds: Love Stories From the Greatest Generation.” You can listen to her podcast “Life, Love and Raising Sons” at SpokaneTalksOnline.com. Her previous columns are available online at spokesman.com/ columnists. Follow her on Twitter at @CindyHval.