This election was close–much closer than it should have been. For those of us committed to progressive causes, it was a reminder that we need to work even harder to ensure future such races contain a message which is clear, relevant, and compelling, connecting the dots between the issues we care about and fiscal responsibility. Our margin of victory should have been greater, and even in the election’s wake, I find myself contemplating the cost of lost friendships, as well as our best path forward.
Just two weeks ago, after several intense political exchanges on Facebook, I awoke one morning, unable to sleep, and typed up a status update, a manifesto of sorts, which quickly took on a life of its own. In it, I asked those voting for Romney to de-friend me, given that much of what he advocated was a direct attack on me as an LGBT person, as well as the progressive causes in which I believe. The reaction to this was swift, emotional, and tumultuous.
In the ensuing days, my post was shared and spread, with over 128,000 facebook “likes” at last count. People I hadn’t heard from in years contacted me to debate the merits of said post, arguing passionately for and against. I was de-friended by a handful of acquaintances, only to find myself friended by hundreds more.
What most people failed to grasp, though, was that I wasn’t personally planning to de-friend anyone. Instead, I wanted others to take responsibility for their actions and views, and de-friend me. I felt it was important that people examine their vote, its real world impact, and take ownership. As I told those unwilling to de-friend me, if Romney won and followed through on his pledge to restrict my rights, I wanted them to be reminded, each and every time they saw me post, that they’d had a direct hand in my undoing.
While the article was provocative and created dialogue, and led to many other writers offering variations or alternatives to my de-friend stance, some of that discussion brought up attitudes I hadn’t anticipated. Despite clearly noting that I was voting for Obama because I care about the environment, the poor, veterans, the elderly, equality for women, the freedom of choice, healthcare as a right, our rights as a family with two gay dads, and the economy, one newspaper editorial reduced me to being a “single-issue” voter. While that may bring into question the writer’s math skills, the larger point, that my progressive voting position was inherently less important than their fiscal one, is one which we need to actively counter.
Progressive causes should not break the bank. There is a way to achieve human rights in a fiscally responsible way, and yet our detractors have successfully labeled us as “tax-and-spend, bleeding heart liberals,” implying that our love for such causes compels us to open our wallet at every turn, regardless of cost. As made clear in this election, many people vote solely from their pocketbooks, and we have work to do in articulating a vision which not only upholds dignity and respect for all human life and the planet, but communicates that such advances can actually help stimulate our economy and, in turn, heal our deficit. Being committed to social causes and financial security are not mutually exclusive; we must clarify how they can work together if we are to ensure a greater margin of victory in the future.
On a personal level, I’m struggling this morning on how to best move forward, given my friends who say they support me, yet vote for policies and people which work to deny me my equality, as well as the subsequent tax benefits and protections conveyed under the law. I find myself questioning who I want in my life, and who I don’t…
Years ago, I made the difficult decision to cut my parents out of my life, due to what I perceived as anti-gay behavior. I told myself then that my self-respect meant more, in the long haul, than their bigotry. Upon the birth of our children, I allowed that stance to soften, as I wanted my parents to be in our children’s lives, and for our kids to experience what it was like to have grandparents. The night before the election, however, I got a call from my mother, telling me that she is joining a church this Sunday which I’d previously told her is anti-gay, preaching that homosexuality is a sin. The church is so well-known in our area that I actually once attempted to meet with the pastor, in an attempt to discuss and expand his views, but was denied.
My mother asked us to come to this new member event to support her, and it pained me to tell her that I could not knowingly step into a church which views me as evil. She doesn’t understand why we can’t make a “one-time” exception, to support her personally. And this strikes to the heart of my “Please De-Friend Me” post. Both my mother and I are seeking support for who we are and what we believe, but our two stances are entirely contradictory. So what do we do?
Is it better to form tentative truces, knowing we are not being supported? Is it better to take hard-line stances and clear boundaries, to ensure we retain our self-respect? And what effect does it have on us to have people in our lives who do not respect or support who we are at our very core?
I’ve tried for years to get my parents to expand their worldview, but find that it will never change. I’ve tried mightily, during this election, to get others to see that their votes have real-world consequences, only to watch as they cast votes supporting my second-class status. In both cases, I am conflicted as to the best course forward.
It is one thing to educate and build bridges of understanding, but if my basic right to equality isn’t respected, is that even a bridge I want to build???
PLEASE DE-FRIEND ME.
If you plan to vote for Mitt Romney, you are putting a nail into my civil rights coffin, and I’d rather not have friends who think I deserve anything less than equal treatment under the law. Romney supports DOMA (which directly and negatively impacts me, restricting my partner Russ, our kids, and my federal protections and tax benefits under the law), and has noted his support for an anti-marriage equality amendment as well. While you may see your vote for him as one about the economy (and we can debate who’d be better for that until the cows come home), what you INTEND by your vote really doesn’t matter. Your vote means that you are supporting someone who not only thinks I’m not equal to you, but who works vigorously to ensure my “less-than” legal status. Your vote for him means that you are totally fine with me being treated with disrespect.
Now, you may see this as an indication that I am being too “single minded”, and I’ll admit that when you’re denied even the simplest of human considerations, it makes it difficult to look beyond that. But this is about much more than my treatment under the law. Who I am and what I believe passionately in are also things which Romney discounts. I believe in full and fair treatment of ALL people, but Romney believes that women should not receive equal pay for equal work. I believe we need to take care of our earth, even if it means tightening our belts, but Romney favors further deregulation over environmental concerns. I think it is our duty to support things like art and culture (I view them as essential), but Romney disparages the role these play in enriching our lives; he sees them as extraneous and will cut public funding. I believe, just as education is a right, healthcare is as well, but Romney wants to abolish the Affordable Care Act. I care about those less fortunate and the elderly, and think it is our collective responsibility to ensure their well-being, but in Romney’s eyes, these people are victims and moochers. In short, who I am isn’t just who I love, it is the things I feel passionately about. And Romney stands against almost all of them.
BOTTOM LINE: I don’t care who you are–whether you are my relation by blood or a longtime acquaintance, I don’t want “friends” who don’t think I’m as good as they are. I want friends who value me, who see my worth as a human being, and who fully support my equal protections under the law. So, if you’re voting for Romney, whether you follow me on twitter or facebook, please de-friend me. You won’t hurt my feelings. I won’t cause a big stink. In fact, you’ll be creating space in my life for others to come in who do feel that my being here on the planet matters.
I’M NOT INTERESTED IN DEBATING THIS. PLEASE RESPECT MY WISHES.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
“Rise Up!”, I say to you. “All true Americans! Rise Up! All who believe in equality, in fairness, in liberty — for each and every living soul — You who are truly AMERICAN, rise up!”
I’m sick and tired of being “less than,” and I refuse to be treated that way any longer.
I’m sick of political parties wrapping the mantle of patriotism around themselves, insisting that only they are the true patriots. They have perpetuated the falsehood that to be anything less than ultra-conservative means to be anti-USA. That to question and criticize policies is to be a traitor. That to be an American means including “God” in the mix, even though the intent was for a clear separation of church and state. They have insinuated that to be a true patriot, to be American, one must accept the entire conservative mantra, including the belief that life begins at the very instant of conception, that women are inherently inferior to men, that gays should simply live a celibate, quiet life, that transgendered people should be able to be fired on a whim, that our environment is not worth saving, and that all evil Muslims should be immediately deported. And, hey, while we’re at it — why not deport all non-whites?
They’re only immigrants, right? Not real Americans. (more…)