I don’t know about you, but everywhere I go I hear the same thing – “I wish this presidential stuff was over!” This is not just a few people; I am talking about numerous people in different levels of involvement in my life – Democrats, Republicans, and Independents. Some of these individuals are friends; others are known professionally, and some are acquaintances or people I see going about my daily routine.
The problem is that there is so much division felt in the office, at sporting events, and even in our own homes. There are spouses who want different candidates, and their children sometimes take sides. Then there are friends and their children, and it just spirals completely out of control if the conversation turns to politics, and lately this always seems inevitable.
Another source of angst is the social media aspect of the campaign. Facebook has become a battleground – either you are standing with one candidate or the other and, if not, you are the enemy. It is really rather absurd but it is happening there and on Twitter and other online venues. “You don’t like my candidate? I’m unfriending you!” It’s sort of like the old playground “I’m not your friend anymore” crap, only it’s worse because we are adults.
Going to a cocktail party now seems like something to dread rather than enjoy. They say “in vino veritas,” but you don’t expect “in vino venom” as you sample hors d'oeuvres and sip a martini. There is always the guy who seems ready to engage, ready to get things going.
“So, who are you voting for?” he will say rather obnoxiously.
“I haven’t decided,” is usually an easy out, but not with this fellow.
“Come on, you’re voting for Trump, right?”
“No, I’m really not sure yet.” This usually works, right? Not with this guy.
He’ll laugh like sarcastically, letting you know that he doesn’t believe you. “I know, everyone who says that is voting for Trump.”
So, now that you can’t get out the easy way, you go for the real truth. “I am an Independent, so I always vote my conscience, and right now I can’t see voting for either of the main candidates.”
His eyes will bulge and he will say, “Oh, so if you vote for Gary Johnson or Jill Stein, you’re actually voting for Trump anyway!”
Now you’ve about had it; you are done being polite. You take your drink and that now cold pig in the blanket and, as you walk away, the guy gets all Jack Nicholson on you yelling, “See, you people can’t handle the truth!” You don’t turn around; you just keep walking.
Now, this is an example of what has been happening lately. It can be in the supermarket, the coffee shop, or even in Walgreens – the venue almost doesn’t matter. People are ready to engage and are armed for battle.
Sometimes I see the guy in a red Trump hat, and I turn and walk the other way, even if the item I want is down that aisle. Other times I see people wearing Clinton shirts or buttons, and I do the same. Like a political version of Bartleby, I just prefer not to – and I wish people would respect that.
At this time I cannot watch American TV news anymore, because the same version of divisiveness in the real world is happening on CNN, FOX, and MSNBC. The talking heads are yelling at one another; the hosts are biased and spouting their opinions, and the hope for “news” is just wishful thinking. When I do want some actual news coverage, I turn to my local cable news for area stories and the BBC for what’s happening in the world.
It really has reached a point that the pettiness and vindictiveness of the presidential campaigns have affected the quality of life for many people. Like an albatross around our collective necks, it weighs down social situations, work environments, online interactions, and family functions. It is an unfair punishment for a crime we didn’t commit, but we’re saddled with it anyway.
As we move closer to Labor Day and what follows after that – the homestretch of the campaigns heading toward Election Day – I wish that people would just respect others for having an opinion or not having one. I wish that people would not try to take every opportunity to start a debate on for whom to vote, and I would hope that general decency could take the place of acrimony.
In short let’s not start the conversation someone else may not want to finish, and if you do engage in some kind of political discourse, let civility reign and respect the other person’s opinion – even if that person is choosing not to vote on November 8. Everything will be over after that day, but the wounds inflicted before it may take a long time to heal, or may fester and grow worse afterwards.
It is up to us not to ruin friendships, alienate colleagues, or fracture our families. The best bet is to ease up on everyone around you and keep the peace. Life is too short for anything less.