Is America truly the land of the free? I can't help but ask myself this question as I keep reading the many posts filling my Facebook feed. Evidently, most of these posts are election-related and communicate some rather strong opinions and statements (good and bad) on both candidates and their respective presidential campaigns. Though it is fascinating to read the many comments and get an overall view of the general sentiment that my friends, family members and acquaintances have been feeling vis-à-vis the presidential election, it is also quite disturbing and disappointing to witness how my own community (the LGBT one) has been, for lack of a better word, discriminatively intolerant toward people not adhering to their political views and/or choice for president.
Recently a Facebook acquaintance of mine posted a comment that to some degree summarizes, in my opinion, the general attitude my LGBT fellows have been embracing in the social media sphere. The message was basically addressed, in very intimidating prose, to all Romney supporters, reminding them that the Republican candidate was opposed to same-sex marriage and proceeding to lecture them on the fact that their "straight" relationship was not more valuable than any gay/lesbian relationship, including the one said person is in. It also harshly condemned gay people who were not pledging "voting" allegiance to the LGBT fight for equality publicly endorsed by Obama. The statement finally ended with a semi-threat inviting Facebook friends (straight and gay) who were not going to change their minds and vote to reelect President Obama to "defriend" the subject, because "this election is that personal."
Now, clearly, everybody is free to express his or her opinion. And that is exactly my point! What ever happened to freedom of expression and the liberty for all to vote for whom they want? What is so terribly wrong to agree to disagree? Our community's endless quest for equality has always been about celebrating differences to be free to be who we truly are. If our message is one of acceptance and tolerance, shouldn't we practice what we preach and similarly be accepting and tolerant toward people (gay or straight) who have a different opinion, and, in this case, a different vote to cast than ours? I personally believe that it makes us look like a bunch of hypocrites if we do unto others what we don't want done unto us, not to mention the fact that it defeats the entire purpose and cause of the LGBT community and what our community stands for.
It's not breaking news that the bulk of the LGBT community is rallying around President Obama's ticket, but the Obama love fest isn't the de facto stance of all LGBT voters. I know a handful of gay and lesbian Republicans who intend to vote against the incumbent president on Nov. 6. Does that make them "bad" people or disingenuous, disloyal members of our community?
Again in the social media world, some people have been arguing that if you're not with the gay community, then you're against it. I don't personally believe that gay people who vote Republican are deserting and/or turning their backs on the community. Passing judgment on others is not only pretentious but a bit narrow-minded and a rather totalitarian approach. It is the same as assuming that black people would naturally have to vote for President Obama because they share the same skin color. We've seen the racist rage from some Obama supporters in response to Stacey Dash's tweet endorsing Mitt Romney, or, conversely, the reaction from John H. Sununu to Colin Powell's endorsement of President Obama, in which Sununu insinuated that Powell is backing Obama because of race.
As someone who is a holder of a Green Card (a year away from proudly becoming an American!) and is watching this election from Switzerland, my main concern is the way this so-called Facebook debate has been depriving a minority of its freedom of expression. The dialogue taking place in my Facebook feed has been so overwhelmingly anti-Romney that very few of my Republican Facebook friends have had the guts to leave comments and/or post status updates expressing, or even revealing, their support for their political party. And when a few did, they were rather harshly condemned in what bordered on Facebook bullying. What that has translated into is a flow of angry words meant to psychologically intimidate and virtually discredit anyone giving Republicans some love, so much so that most have quickly ceased to even bother to do so. Why should anyone feel guilty or less-than for thinking a certain way, even if it goes against the general consensus? We should really be utilizing social media platforms like Facebook to open the doors of communication and engage in a transparent dialogue where ideas and opinions, no matter how diverse they are, are freely shared and exchanged in a gracious and all-embracing manner, without prejudice and judgment. We can always learn from others, even if they don't think like us or agree with us.
I respect the fact that we're all passionate about our cause and our community, but I also believe that that same respect should be given to all and should apply to each and every one of us. It truly is a shame that our community is rather ironically forcing others to stay in the closet, to keep their mouths shut and their opinions to themselves, particularly when and if their political views and party affiliation differ from the "popular" majority. What kind of message are we sending? That it's OK to be different and that you should be free to be who you are as long as you think, and most importantly vote, like the majority of us?