America / Culture / Politics / Presidential Race 2012 / U.S. Domestic Policy

An Unfriendly Election

“Don’t talk religion or politics,” is an old adage with which many people are familiar and usually embrace. We don’t ask someone that we’ve just met about his or her religious or political beliefs because, as one of my professors once said, these issues get to the essence of who we are. The creed to which one adheres or the ideology one supports is highly personal, so we typically only share these things with those people we know and trust.

Yet with the election a mere 11 days away, political beliefs are spilling out onto social media. While it is heartening to see the intense level of interest in the race, tweets and Facebook posts have taken a vitriolic turn, leaving friendships strained by the contest between President Obama and Governor Romney. As much as I have tried to avoid engaging in the online political wars, yesterday I finally reached my breaking point, and already one friendship has been altered.

A friend of mine posted a famous playwright’s letter to his moderate Republican friends in which the author says that voting for Governor Romney is “like voting for George Wallace during the Civil Rights movements.” The letter admonishes Romney voters to look the author, a gay man, in the eye and say, “My taxes and take-home pay mean more than your fundamental rights, the sanctity of your marriage, your right to visit and ailing spouse in the hospital, your dignity as a citizen of this country … and your very personhood.” David Wright, the author, writes that even if a voter disagrees with Romney on these issues, a vote for him condones “cultural homophobia.”

This letter comes on the heels of an article on the Huffington Post in which the author tells those who are voting for Romney to “defriend” him because, “I’d rather not have friends who think I deserve anything less than equal treatment under the law.”

I’m sorry… What? Have we really reached the point where we are going to reject our friends because of the candidate for whom they are voting?

Apparently we have. After writing a response in which I pushed back against this line of thinking, the aforementioned friend, a gay man that I have known for several years, told me that if I voted for Romney then I would not be invited to his wedding. While this is hurtful on a personal level, I’m more astonished than anything else.

As adults aren’t we mature enough to recognize that people have different priorities and ways of looking at the world? Since when did a vote for a candidate become an embrace of everything for which he stands?

And speaking of stances, Governor Romney isn’t even guilty of holding the positions he is accused of having. He has said that he believes in equal rights in employment, noting that he had members of his team who were gay, and he supports domestic partnership benefits, including hospital visitation rights. While Romney does oppose gay marriage, isn’t that his right as a faithful Mormon?

If one views gay marriage as the civil rights issue of our day, then I guess not. But to me, something seems very wrong when friendships are literally being torn apart by an election in which these issues are not even being discussed. We’ve become so wedded to our own points of view, and views of the world, that we can’t even accept our friends anymore.

Or maybe those people who are content to cast others aside because of political differences were never really our friends in the first place. Either way, I’m now seeing the wisdom behind that old adage.