On Politics and Vitriol

My Facebook feed is almost entirely right-wing; I am, after all, a grown-up church-kid WASP who goes to a notoriously conservative school. As a result, I see a lot of reactions to Ben Shapiro, Matt Walsh, and the like. And for the most part, that’s fine; I don’t agree with everything they say, but at least I can keep tabs on a very particular brand of news. Every so often, however, I find something, whether directly shared or just reacted to, that’s a little disturbing.

For example, a friend from high school shared a picture of  the Twin Towers burning. Over it, in sans-serif all-caps text, read “Adult college students need therapy because their candidate lost the election. In high school, we watched 3,000 people die on live T.V. and finished our lives without therapy.” Another posted an image of a protester whose sign had been Photoshopped to read “I’m for giving Muslims the same rights here that they give to Christians in their home countries.” Facebook comments in an article complaining about hysteria in another article included “Liberals (fake feminists) don’t have kids cuz they killed them all by exercising their ‘right’ to abort them” and “So, if there’s a moral to the story, even leftist children lie.”

Is this how we’re choosing to represent ourselves? By mocking others’ need to talk through events which hurt them or scared them (as the election results did for many people) in order to protect their mental health? By treating rights as a matter of religious affiliation because, hey, that’s what they’d do to us? By assuming that all liberals would abort children and lie to the public? By equating sensitivity with weakness, persecution with the Constitution, and a moment of questionable parenting with brainwashing tactics? Maybe my politics skew a little more left than some of my friends, and that’s why I’m not comfortable with this, but yikes.

Are we really going to treat our fellow citizens this way? Can we really look at a woman who is genuinely frightened about the possible connections between our current president and the white nationalist underbelly of the Internet, and joke that she worries too much and probably has had an abortion? Are we going to espouse a religion that teaches to turn the other cheek and love our enemies, only to shrug off the hurting who seek our shores in the name of national security and religious homogeneity?

Even if I didn’t believe that the second greatest commandment is to love your neighbor as yourself, this makes no sense from a pragmatic standpoint. I understand that, for the first time in eight years, our team’s in power. That’s exciting, although I (and many others) would rather it have happened under the leadership of a man fit to wield the power we’ve voted he should have. But is this how we’re really going to use the next four years? By making ourselves look crass, reactionary, and insensitive? When we behave like this, all we’re doing is hurting our cause. We’re never going to convert people if all we do is shout at them.

So what do I propose as a solution? Call me an idealist, but love might really be the answer. At the very least, try to listen to the other side. You don’t have to put on a pink hat and march on Washington, but understanding why someone would do so goes a long way. After all, if our end is ultimately the same (a better country), discussing the means seems a lot less challenging.

And, yes, I know, this doesn’t apply to all conservatives- the friends who shared those posts and articles are genuinely kind people. But I do think that that sort of rhetoric has no place in either party, especially not in the one which purports to stand for truth and absolute morality.

 

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