I missed the debates on Wednesday: listening to the media analysis after the fact, it appears that Romney won, perhaps by exceeding the media's somewhat low expectations for him. I am not sure it matters to me. I have no intention in voting for the man; but a good performance from him would reassure me that the country will cope if he were to get elected.
I will be so happy when the election is over. I am sincerely hoping that my Facebook friends (all people I know in person and, for the most part, care about), who have a wide variety of political views, will give the partisan wrangling a rest. Yes, I know in many ways I am as bad as others, but I am trying to be more understanding of differences between us, and not post the most inflammatory and insulting material.
We could all decide to discuss something else, like the potential looming bacon shortage. You know, important things.
One of the things I said in my Stanford Lawyer piece was that "I learned that good people with honorable intent can look at the same problem and come up with wildly divergent answers. I learned that disagreement does not always mean someone is wrong and, more importantly, that someone being 'wrong' does not mean that they are 'evil.'"
As a nation, we forget this at our peril. The result is loss of national cohesion and identity. We become a nation whose identity is so wrapped up in our political tribal affiliations that it becomes impossible to find common ground. Furthermore, frenzied rhetoric can result in the less stable among us becoming violent. People can die.
As a person, I forget this at my peril. The peril is that I will lose relationship with people who I care about. (There is a reason that my family in Mississippi and I do not discuss politics.) I have lost too many people in my life, usually through my own carelessness and feelings of shame and unworthiness; I can ill afford to lose more.
That said, maintaining equilibrium in these turbulent political waters is difficult. The rhetoric which has flown around the ongoing fights over women's reproductive rights has been particularly nasty. It gets tiring be called a baby-killer; and the "war on women" label is exaggerated. Do I think that people such as Todd Akin and Paul Ryan are wrong? Completely. Terribly. Dangerously. Do I think they are evil people? No, even though the legislation they push forward may have evil consequences.
Is it okay to call out Todd Akin on his views on women? Absolutely. Is it okay to challenge the ethical implications of Paul Ryan's budget plans? Absolutely. But both of those can be done in a manner that still recognizes the basic humanity of the men in question.
When I am tempted to engage in simplistic rejections of people whose opinions differ from mine, I think of two people. The first is my eldest sister, who is very conservative, opposed to abortion and birth control and ... capital punishment, on the grounds that nobody but God has a right to take a life. I do not agree with some of her opinions, but at least she has a coherent .ethic supporting her political views. I like to think, in spite of evidence to the contrary, that more people do than one might suppose.
The other is a woman with whom I used to go to church. She is conservative, and strongly Republican. She opposes same-sex marriage, for one thing. It would so easy to dismiss her, to reject her as a person. I have more than one friend who would heap scorn upon her, who would question my views simply because I would be willing to associate with her. But this woman, on her own dime and with her own hands, helped renovate and support an orphanage in Tijuana. She is honestly following Jesus' command to care for the poor, more than I have ever done. How can I not respect her?
Jon Stewart, who along with Stephen Colbert is one of the sanest political voices in America, in an interview with Rachel Maddow, observed that "it is easy to grant amnesty to those whose political views we agree with, and overly demonize those who we don't." He's exactly right.
So I will struggle through the next few weeks. For the most part, I will try to refrain from posting insulting and inflammatory things on my Facebook or LiveJournal or here, for that matter -- although I am sure I will fail at that at least sometimes. The trick is to state what I believe without calling into question the humanity of those who disagree with me.
It is possible to disagree without someone without demonizing them. I need to remember that.