Tis the season to hunker down and shut off your TV, pre-set your car radio to music-only stations, block everyone but your mother or grandchildren on Facebook, and let your Twitter account temporarily expire. It's the final push before the election and I wonder if there is enough chocolate and wine to get me through until I realize Halloween is next week and I am adequately prepared. We are short on wine, but I am nothing if not a stoic Minnesotan who can endure this minor hardship.
I wish it didn't have to feel this way.
As a dreamer standing alone on some imaginary island where all conversation is meaningful and funny, I feel stymied every election season. I hate all the pot shots and headlines and ludicrous ads. My heart breaks for housebound people and nursing home patients who bear the weight of the never-ending barrage.
Even more than that, though, I feel like I don't know how real people feel, especially those who don't fall on the same side as me.
This year I decided to do something about it. I reached out to a few people who don't fall on the same side as I do. Using careful research (Facebook and yard signs), I chose some level-headed friends whose Facebook pages have remained zinger-free and whose personal exchanges thus far have always been pleasant. I decided to ask them a few questions. They responded and asked me a few questions, and in essence what we have shared are our stories which led us to how we have arrived at our candidates of choice for this election. There has been no name calling and a few true confessions. Here is a small glimpse into one exchange.
"I am socially liberal and fiscally conservative, though I would call myself a libertarian if I could. But, I voted for Obama in the last election. I really wanted to believe he could make some inroads into changing how our political system works. (insert big sigh) So much for that," said one friend.
"I was feeling ok with McCain. I felt that no matter who won last election it was going to be ok, until..." I responded.
"He chose Sarah Palin!" we typed in tandem. It was the school girl's equivalent of a squeal.
But here we are now in 2012 and my friends and I are stuck in a basic philosophical divide. We all agree we'd rather eat dinner with Obama, but we are not voting on a dinner party companion.
We have assertively pushed forward our concerns about women. Among us, we are raising five girls so the future of women is paramount to all of us. None of us dispute life begins at conception. All of us agree women need good health care and safe choices. Who and how this should be funded is an essential part of that debate. Again, it is informative and respectful and not biting and snarky. I express concern over single-issue voters. They call foul to single incidents coloring a whole party platform. I nod to myself while typing as I imagine they are as well. I revel in the candor and enlightenment.
My face-time conversations were similar though more guarded. One woman totally side-stepped my attempts at talking politics. Another was certain I was up to something. When I thanked her for her time, she said, "This was great. It doesn't have to be scary, but are you sure you don't want anything?"
No. Or yes... I do want something. I want more real people talking candidly to each other, not afraid to discuss issues that matter, looking beyond the heaping pile of stereotypes that media place on us. We are smarter and better than that. Yard signs should not keep us away from neighbors and we should not "unfriend" people due to perceived differences.
Though I know I didn't move anyone to "my side," and my opinions remain the same, I am not unmoved.
Perhaps the need for chocolate will wane, which for me, counts as progress.