Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Heading into the Election season

 I know that many of you feel the same way that I do; you are dreading the upcoming election season.  Social media becomes a platform for passionate political commentary.  Unfortunately, for so many of us, we find out that some of our friends do not share our world view, and this becomes a major divide that can even break apart long-held friendships. 
 There is something about the ease and anonymity of social media that allows individuals to post and share items that they would never actually say to others in person.  Facebook becomes a political war zone, and a Presidential election is perhaps the most toxic of all elections. 
 With the first official GOP debate scheduled for this week, here are some of my basic rules of survival for the upcoming election year;
    1.   Disagree without insulting.  I am not the PC police, but lets be honest – the online world would be a much nicer place if we could all stop insulting others and name-calling.  I have many friends who are extremely conservative and many friends who are as liberal as can be, I don’t have to agree with everyone’s opinion.  I understand we all have different life experiences.  Just because someone doesn’t agree with me doesn’t automatically make someone an idiot. 
    2.   You can unfollow someone.  Facebook has an option of unfollowing people, rather than permanently unfriending.  That one friend who is always dramatic, the one family member who shares way too much personal information; we all have at least one or two people that we would like to see ‘less’ of online, so simply click unfollow.  Simple, but effective, their daily drama will no longer appear in your news feed, but they will never know that you have chosen to avoid seeing them.  I know some people will say “why are you friends with someone who you don’t want to interact with?”  but sometimes for the sake of peace and family harmony it is just easier this way, and much nicer too.  I am not completely cutting you out of my life; I am just tuning you out for a while. 
   3.   Not all opinions have to be shared.  I am reminded of a line from the original “Jurassic Park” movie where Jeff Goldblum’s character says, “Just because you can do something, doesn’t mean you should”. 
(I may be paraphrasing just a bit, but you get the idea).  You may be brilliant.  You may have the most astute political opinions in the history of this country, but not every thought that pops into your head needs to be shared.  If you do insist on constantly sharing your opinions it is highly likely that your friends will follow rule #2 and unfollow you. 
    4.   Be respectful.  Remember the old saying, “You can catch more flies with honey than with vinegar”.  To be perfectly honest – I don’t want to catch any flies, but if you ever hope to actually persuade others to see your point of view, you will not succeed if you belittle and insult their beliefs. 
    5.   You have two ears, use them.  Try to listen.  I am not saying you need to agree with someone, but it is important to try and understand where the other person is coming from.  What is their background?  Why do they hold different beliefs than you?  Try to understand the validity of their point of view – this is the only way we can all begin to reach common ground. 
    6.  Have a sense of humor.  For some reason political discussions cause everyone to lose their sense of humor.  People become so passionate about their beliefs, and many of these beliefs are tied to deeply held values, and we all have a tendency to over-personalize comments that are made.  It really helps to take a step back and try to see the humor in the situation.  Let’s be honest, whether you are democrat or republican or independent – we all know that Donald Trump’s hair is often silly looking and that President Obama’s ears do tend to stick out.  Learn to laugh about it.  I am not suggesting that rude or inappropriate humor is okay, but not everything has to be so serious. 
    7.   Finally, remember that we are all on the same team.  Red or blue, donkey or elephant, regardless of our differences, it is important to remember that we all want what is best for this country.  While we may not agree on what the best solution is, it does not help to hurl insults and say how unpatriotic the ‘other guys’ are.  Take just a nano second and picture the entire U.S. Congress, all the Senators and Representatives, men and women, democrats and republicans, and think back to the afternoon of September 11th, 2001.  This large group of officials was standing on the steps of the Capitol, singing the national anthem together.  It should not take a horrific tragedy to remind us that ultimately we are all on the same team.  We are proud Americans, and for better or worse, this is the country we call home. 

So, support your candidates, be passionate about your beliefs, but also remember to be considerate of others during this crazy election year. 

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