This morning I had a weird Facebook moment. I was scrolling through all the post-election flotsam when I saw where one of my friends had posted a great quote from Thomas Jefferson: "I never considered a difference in politics, in religion, in philosophy, as cause for withdrawing from a friend."
Isn't that a completely appropriate sentiment after such a divisive, close and emotional election cycle? Since I'm personally pleased with the outcome of last night's election, I had to repost Jefferson's quote on my Facebook wall. Maybe it would be conciliatory towards all my right wing friends who posted things like "We're f-cked!" and "All I can say is God help us all." They seemed to be taking Obama's re-election rather hard, and I don't want to gloat, because in 4 years I'll most likely be the one all bummed out the morning after the presidential race concludes.
Then, continuing to scroll through more posts, I saw this little gem, from a guy I sorta knew back in high school: "I don't care who won the election, America should get on its knees and repent and turn back to God."
I had to read it a couple of times. Then I had to see who "liked" it, while deciding if I should respond to such a ridiculous statement. I never even got as far as typing a reply. Instead, I just defriended the guy. Case closed.
But... not really. See, there's that Jefferson quote about not withdrawing from a friend. In so doing, I've fallen quite short of the ideals of true acceptance and unconditional love that God - that still, quiet voice inside that never steers me wrong, if only I'd remember to listen to it - is constantly trying to instill within me.
It was during the 1992 presidential election that I first became aware that many people who looked a lot like me- young, white, gainfully employed Southerners - didn't share my political views at all. At the age of 27, I considered myself a liberal Democrat, although I had never been particularly vocal or active in any political movement. My parents were (and still are) hardcore Republicans, and to this day I can't figure out how I turned out so different from them, politically. Meanwhile, I guess I assumed that my extended circle of friends and close coworkers were probably in about the same place I was, and would be voting for Clinton that year. I found out differently when, after making some offhanded comment at work about how I was looking forward to sending George Bush home on Election Day, I got an earful from a young woman who sat next to me, and who was highly offended by my liberal views. She might as well have revealed herself to be a pod person from "Invasion of the Bodysnatchers." I suppose she felt the same way about me.
Now that I'm 20 years older and wiser, I'd like to say I've always been a mellow, laid back, live-and-let-live kind of guy. But that would be a lie. Back in '92, I thought less of that woman who chewed me out for being a liberal and for the first time ever, I started to have an "us versus them" worldview. I could no longer ascribe my political views to some sort of generational "default setting." I had to question my own beliefs, and compare them to the beliefs of my peer group. Why did she feel so angry towards Clinton? Why did I want to vote for him? Was it that sax solo he did on "Arsenio?" I hoped not. I finally decided the reason I leaned left was because I'm gay, and liberals in general were more accepting of gay people. Although I'm loathe to be labeled or treated a certain way because of who I am, I came to the realization that my orientation informs my political beliefs. Even after reading Ayn Rand, and loving it, I've never been able to get excited about any Republican running for any office, although I'm probably getting relatively more conservative in my middle age. I seriously considered voting for McCain in 2008, but then he picked that running mate. This past year, however, I was rather impressed with Ron Paul, and decided that I would vote for him if I had the opportunity to do so.
I really understand how my conservative friends feel after Romney's defeat. I felt the same way in 2000, and again in 2004. Without getting into a debate about it (because what would be the point in that?) I believe in my heart of hearts that Republican operatives stole both of those elections, and for 8 years, I couldn't even look at my television whenever that smug, smirky idiot appeared on the screen without feeling a shudder of cold revulsion.
Beliefs cause all kinds of trouble, but we're wired to have them, I guess. Picking a presidential candidate primarily by his stated position on issues of importance to the gay community (whoever THEY are), is probably not the best way to do it. But then, it's never really about one issue. The anti-gay candidates tend to be anti-woman, and often are anti-everybody-who-isn't-an-old-angry-white-dude, too. I just can't hang with that, even if I do feel conservative in fiscal matters. I won't attempt to defend my choices, except to say that I can't ignore my conscience. When voting day rolls around, and I'm in that booth with the curtains drawn, it inevitably comes down to social issues.
Oh, and there isn't a booth, and there are no curtains to draw. In Kansas we vote using a little console on a shaky metal stand, with plastic privacy wings.