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 that future such races contain a message that 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 defriend 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 it. I was defriended 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 defriend anyone. Instead, I wanted others to take responsibility for their actions and views and defriend me. I felt it was important that people examine their vote, its real-world impact and take ownership. As I told those unwilling to defriend 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.
Though the article was provocative and created dialogue and led to many other writers offering variations or alternatives to my "defriend me" 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, health care 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 that 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 that 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 today with how to best move forward, given my friends who say that they support me but voted for policies and people who work to deny me my equality and the related tax benefits and protections conveyed under the law. I find myself questioning whom I want in my life and whom I don't.
Years ago I made the difficult decision to cut my parents out of my life, because of 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, because I wanted my parents to be in our children's lives, and I wanted 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 that I'd previously told her is anti-gay and preaches 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 I 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 that 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 Defriend 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 that we are not being supported? Is it better to take hard-line stances and draw clear boundaries to ensure that 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 I 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???