In 2008, I stood at a microphone to ask a question at a public debate about who was a better candidate for president: Senator Obama or McCain. The question I asked that night was how the Republicans could consider McCain a ‘family values’ candidate when he met his next wife at a cocktail party.
It was the wrong question.
I didn’t realize this until I sat down and heard all the other speakers’ questions. They (and millions of people in the 8 years since then) repeated different variations of the same theme: could a black man be president? Did this particular one deserve to be president? As the conversation rolled around me (and streamed online), a new question obsessed me.
What were we going to November 9th? Where would all the vitriol and insults and anger go? Would these people tearing each other apart go back to being friends, neighbors, and family members?
History has given us our answer: the negativity went straight into Congress, online fora, and other public discourse. People who didn’t believe in an Obama presidency still rally against him in the superlative. 8 years of the country’s first black president didn’t erase race. It ripped the skin off the scab everyone pretended didn’t exist.
And this election is establishing that pattern all over again at about a thousand decibels louder. Gender is front and center. Should a woman be held responsible for her husband’s actions? Should a rich man be allowed to speak or behave around women however he wants?
I wade into the comments section of Facebook posts with trepidation. Because you see, I have friends all over the country. Red states. Blue states. Christians. Muslims. And when I see something I want to comment on, I take a few breaths, give it a few revisions, and try to leave a few thoughts minus the insults because —
The Killary and Trumplestiltskin feud is dividing us, the people who will be left riding the remnants of this negativity. We will be dealing with the racial epithets, misogyny, and malpractice long after Wolf Blitzer has gone to bed.
We still have to live in the America of November 9, 2016. That is democracy. (Even as one of the candidates questions the validity of the election).
Regardless of who wins. Regardless of how we feel about the ‘other’ party’s candidate.
There is not yet a viable third party in America. And while we work on developing one – a process that will take much longer than 4 years – let’s not participate in destroying in what little republic we have left.
Yes, let’s debate. Yes, let’s question each other.
Let’s do it using the same codes of civility we try to instill in five year olds:
- Take turns
- Use kind words
Vote your conscious* and if you need to, use words.
*PS if Trump does win, don’t take it personally if I spend life post 11/9 saying I TOLD YOU SO.