Something to remember during election season

By: Tom Westerholm

Ahhh, election year. That beautiful time when the country engages in lively, spirited, friendly debate over the future, inevitably ending in a fair, roundly accepted election that allows both parties to be happy and content with the results, bringing every American together in harmony and the knowledge that our votes count and our opinions matter.

Yeah, that doesn’t sound familiar to me either. For several months, my Twitter and Facebook feeds are both filling with angry rhetoric and personal attacks. Opposing sides employ trench-warfare tactics online, firing away but never coming any closer to achieving victory, just inciting more violence.

I’ve grown used to this over the years. I grew up in opposition to the extremely partisan area of Iowa in which I live. Worse, I wasn’t smart enough to keep my mouth shut about it. In defiance of teasing, poking and prodding, I would proudly state my differences in opinion, all garnered from my parents, just like every other kid on the playground. None of us had our own opinions, just the opinions that had been handed down to us, but we held onto them as if they were our lifeblood.

Has it changed as we’ve grown older? A little. I, for example, have learned when and where to keep my mouth shut about my political views in the interest of peace, and, perhaps directly related, I haven’t been kicked in the groin for my political beliefs since high school. So, you know. Progress and stuff.

The thing that disturbs me most about the political debates that happen online is the way the attacks become personal extremely quickly. Conservatives are “gay-hating Jesus freaks” while liberals are “baby-killing muslims.” If you vote for Romney, you hate poor people. If you vote for Obama, you are a communist who hates America. Both of these accusations, of course, are ridiculous.

This has been driven home to me by a coworker. I have absolutely nothing in common with her politically. Inevitably, any political discussion quickly winds up in disagreement. And yet, I enjoy working with her for the other conversations we have, whether they are about school, relationships or the future. Despite the fact that we could not possibly sit on more opposite sides of the political aisle, we can still have civil, friendly conversations, and we can still enjoy the other person’s company.

It’s important for me (and, I hope, for you as well) to remember that a difference in opinion doesn’t necessarily indicate a moral failing. Politics, for whatever reason, have a tendency to bring out the worst extremes in all of us, both Christian and non-Christian, liberals AND conservatives.

This is stupid. I can promise you this: whether you are voting for Obama or Romney, it hurts to get kicked in the groin. So don’t do it, online or otherwise. Ok? Cool. Glad we got that settled.

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4 thoughts on “Something to remember during election season

  1. Emma says:

    “If you vote for Romney, you hate poor people. If you vote for Obama, you are a communist who hates America. Both of these accusations, of course, is ridiculous.”

    Thanks for pointing this out, Tom. It’s foolish to have to feel embarrassed for choosing a side for fear of being accused of hating someone. Perhaps the country would have better voter turnouts if more people could be civil with their political opinions.

  2. Ryan Te Krony says:

    Tom, I find what you have to say very interesting and thought provoking. I was recently in a government class and the teacher who is very much so liberal went as far as to say, “If conservatives had their way, they would execute all the drug dealers and drug users.” There are many things wrong with that statement but the fact is everyone has their own personal views and I believe that everyone should be civil about it. I have my view as well as the next person but that does not mean one way is the right way. The whole issue with the government right now is that neither side will meet half way so nothing gets done. This is way Clinton was a great president he got both sides to work together.

  3. Christina says:

    Yeah, I agree. This point was driven home recently by Glenn Beck taking issue with the title of Dish Network’s debate (Beck v. Eliot Spitzer) “War of the Words” and its boxing ring stage theme. He said aply, if he knew years ago what he knew now there are many things in the last ten years he would not say the way he said them.

  4. Abbie says:

    When I sat in on a local debate a few weeks ago, I was continuously mocked for the things I clapped for. Not by other political science students, not adults will well thought out positions, or even adults with not-so-thought out positions. No, I was called names by 8 year old children simply arguing the positions of their parents. It’s astounding to me that even young children are roped into being little disciples of a political party. I think our society is developing a cycle of angry rhetoric by allowing our children to catch the habit too. We can’t stop it unless we end the indoctrination of the next generation. It’s sad really.

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