The weather is crisp, the leaves are turning colors, and there’s mud and opinions being flung everywhere — the telltale signs of fall in an election year. I must be getting older and more jaded, because I hate election season with a passion. Ironically, I worked in the political arena for three years while I lived in NYC. I learned about benchmarking, surveys, phone banks, 60 hour weeks, debates, spin control, copywriting, campaign promises, and media buys. I saw a lot of the inside hubbub of election campaigns, and was taught how easy it is to twist statistics and out-of-context quotes. There’s a reason I didn’t stay in that field. But I’ve also lived in Saudi Arabia, where there is no such thing as the democratic process, and personal freedoms are non-existent. So I get how important it is to have freedom of speech, freedom of thought, and freedom to cast my vote for who leads my country for the next four years. And I undertand that it’s equally important for you, my parents, and even that-jerk-down-the-block to have the same inalienable rights that I have. But what I really, truly hate is that somewhere along the way, we’ve lost tolerance and respect for our fellow American. Worse, I hate that this … hatred… is magnified to the nth degree on social media.
If you’re reading this, you probably know I play in social media and have a healthy sense of humor. But when it comes to posting something that might have the faintest whiff of politics, I think twice about it — because even though I’m posting it for wit/irony/parody/snark, those who get caught up in the “us versus them” mode completely miss the humor and pounce on the political statement. While I get the occasional random rebuke on Twitter, it’s nothing compared to the sh*tstorm that results on Facebook. Here’s what I selectively posted earlier today:
While I may or may not think that Mitt Romney is a tool, I am posting this parody of Psy’s Gangnam Style video because it’s smart, well done, and makes me laugh. You have the freedom to find your own Obama tomfoolery and post it in your stream in response. I’ll probably laugh at it too. I am not a subversive agent, I’m not making a statement about abortion/sexuality/taxes/(insert hot topic here). I’m sharing the internets, buddy. So back off. (And by the way, if I comment on a report that Romney bought a ton of Twitter followers? I’m commenting about the use of social media — both good and bad — in the election, so Mr. Random Follower, please go spit in someone else’s Cheerios. I’m not willing to engage in conspiracy theory that the Obama camp did it to make Romney look bad. Romney’s already proven to me his team can’t do social media well.)
I’m all about having political discussions as long as we all remember to maintain our cool, and even — God forbid — our sense of humor. It’s why I enjoy The Daily Show and The Colbert Report (and if THAT doesn’t label me as some sort of left wingnut liberal, I’ll be shocked). For me, humor is far more powerful than rancor when making your point. Well, that and facts, but a lot of people don’t really worry about facts. They get in the way of the rhetoric! The name calling! The twisted accusations! The drama! The exclamation points!!!! Nonetheless, I beg you: Be passionate about your cause by all means, but respect the audience. It’s only four more weeks until Election Day. We can be kinder and gentler for four weeks. Even if I don’t agree with your email tirade about why my candidate sucks and why the country will go to hell if he wins, I’m willing to acknowledge your right to say it, just as you have to be willing to acknowledge my right to a different opinion (or my valiant, if misguided, effort to direct you to Snopes.com). And for pete’s sake, enough with the bullying and abusive language as you troll your favorite blog/wall/twitterstream. America was born on the blood of people who believed we should all be allowed the right to our own thoughts, actions, and opinions — and those people were willing to die to protect our rights. It’s already been done, folks. We don’t need more bloodshed.
What I am willing to get heated about is that as Americans, each of us has an obligation to research the facts, make an informed decision, and VOTE. Here is an in-your-face, NSFW (or young ears) call to action from thisshitmatters.org. Yes, it’s edgy. Yes, it uses foul language. Repeatedly. (If my mother actually spoke to me, I’d never hear the end of it.) But there are important debates going on in this country about issues that affect every single one of us. Or someone we love. Or something we believe in. Laws are going to be made about these issues. Do you really want to leave something this important in the hands of someone who may not be fighting for your same interests? So consider this a reminder of your duty as an American, a gift from me to you. Because while I hate the hate, what’s a billion times worse is all talk, no action. (And yes, that’s what she said.)
Remember: we are better than this hatred and intolerance. So lighten up, Francis.