“Go ahead and hate your neighbor; go ahead and cheat a friend. Do it in the name of Heaven; you can justify it in the end. There won’t be any trumpets blowin’ come the judgement day. On the bloody morning after, one tin soldier rides away.” One Tin Soldier, Coven (1971)
“Someday you’ll return to your valleys and your farms, and you’ll no longer burn to be brothers in arms.” Brothers in Arms, Dire Straits (1985)
If my Facebook timeline is any indication, the current Presidential campaign has been particularly harsh on my formerly-diverse friendships. Just yesterday, I reluctantly blocked a close friend who had been a favorite classmate of mine in law school, because despite multiple polite warnings from me, he insisted upon posting nasty Birther nonsense on my page. This took me by surprise. As a fellow Southerner, he, too, should know there is no good reason for bad manners.
Here’s how it goes: I scan friends’ posts from the night before while waking up over my coffee. Those that make me snert, I “Like.” Those which make me laugh out loud, nod emphatically, or talk to my computer screen, I “Share.” Those which make my eyes roll, I “Hide.” It’s a simple process, and it gets me pretty quickly to the really important tasks of the day: Castleville, Coffee Number Two, and the previous night’s Rachel Maddow Show.
That’s it. I don’t go around passively-aggressively slinging poo onto the walls of friends with different religio-political positions. And I assume, until proven wrong, that they are similarly-abled, that they will also “Hide” anything I post on my wall which causes eyeroll. It’s a sort of social contract. But for many, the contract has finally frayed to the point of dissolution, and it’s open season on anyone who causes you cognitive dissonance. This is really disappointing.
I have always been proud of my ability to mingle peaceably with a wide variety of people. As much as I loved John Hughes’ iconic films in the eighties, I could never identify with the socially-compartmentalized, pathologically cliquish Shermer High School he portrayed, because where I come from, “the sportos, the motorheads, geeks, sluts, bloods, wasteoids, dweebies, dickheads” were pretty much the same kids. Granted, it was rural Mississippi, so it was inherently non-Utopian, but still, we were pretty low-key, get along kind of kids. Whiskey. Tango. Foxtrot?
We seem to have grown apart, my more conservative friends and me, and I refuse to believe it’s because they fell asleep next to some alien pod and woke up moaning Glenn Beck’s name. It’s really easy (and frankly, pretty lazy, intellectually speaking) to assume that everyone who disagrees with you has just gone batshit, or was secretly a not-so-great person all along. College football fans laughingly describe a “house divided” during bowl season, but once it’s over, you’re still family and friends. I fear that the chasm between Americans won’t mend so easily after this election cycle.
What happens to us, the troops on the ground, once the dust clears and this uncivil war is over? How do we go home and face our estranged family members, coworkers, friends? Venomous as this campaign has been, it has fed upon us, dividing us, leaving us used and devastated in its wake. Were we even necessary casualties? I have no answers. I’m just leaving a light on for anyone wandering home afterward.
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