I’ve been thinking a lot about this upcoming election lately; praying a lot for both candidates and their race to the White House. I’ve also been praying for my reaction to it all, too, because my twitter feed has been so overwhelmed with hatred toward whatever party it’s not supporting that it’s painful to even be there most days. So painful, in fact, that after a very long time of indecision on the matter, I finally unfollowed 15-20 people I once respected because their tweets are just too toxic for a political conversation anymore. These people primarily consisted of authors and musicians who create things I love, people who shouted louder than everyone else about how Candidate A or B is a [insert every derogatory name you can imagine here] and anyone that supports them is also a [insert another derogatory name here]. It doesn’t matter if these things are even true; if they say it loud enough and long enough, their fans will walk away believing it; even participating in this sort of hate campaign for the opposition with retweet after retweet is problematic. This is especially true given the fact that the target audience of most of the authors I follow are young, impressionable people. What I find to be one of the most disturbing things about this sort of behavior is that they devote more time to a hate campaign than they do toward supporting their actual candidate of choice. I want to understand how this helps your candidate get elected, because from where I’m standing, I’ve never once changed my opinion on a candidate simply because someone degraded them long enough to convince me otherwise. What, I wonder, is there to actually gain from this sort of behavior? How do they think this sort of representation of themselves is ever a good idea?
I’m not suggesting that authors and musicians and artists of every kind shouldn’t be entitled to their opinion on real life matters; because they should, they are. BUT I do think there is a better way to express your support for one candidate over the other without completely alienating your audience (aka fans) if they happen to be supporting the candidate you’re currently taking a crap on. There is a level of class that should be expected from these public faces, from these role models, to express their opinions in a way that doesn’t belittle anyone who doesn’t agree with them. To be honest, everyone on social media should approach their opinions this way. Just because someone disagrees with your ideas, doesn’t mean either of you are automatically right. No one’s ever 100% right in their thinking. No candidate will ever be 100% what you want them to be as our leader. Even the one you might be supporting has their flaws, we all do. Do we pretend they don’t exist? No. But do we hang on those few flaws like they’re a make or break decision maker? No. If you can’t look at both options and see at least one positive thing about them, perhaps you need to re-evaluate your level of hatred. Even your worst enemy has some sort of redeemable quality. Your hatred is blinding you if you can’t acknowledge that.
I try very hard to not even engage myself on these sorts of matters. I know that, for the most part, nearly all of my closest friends tend to vote on the other side of the political spectrum than me, and that’s okay! As long as neither of us start slinging hateful names and ideas at each other because of the candidate we support, there should be no reason we can’t be friends with differing opinions. But some of the authors and musicians I’ve had to unfollow would argue differently and to me that’s an unfortunate problem.
A few years back, an author I’d respected and bought every book by on release day, got into an internet argument with me that ended in them refusing to listen to facts over their non-fact based opinion and them calling me a bigoted anti-feminist for trying to present those facts to them. It was pretty heart breaking for me, to be treated so cruelly by someone I admired, on such a public platform, all because they felt their opinion was more important than mine and since I didn’t agree with them, that made me worthy of derogatory names that do not describe the person I am at all. They don’t know me personally, who are they to call me those things all in the sake of hatefully campaigning against the person I was championing? Despite their ignorance and total lack of respect for someone else’s opinion, I continued to buy and enjoy their writing, because again, I don’t believe people on opposite sides of the fence can’t still be amicable. I would never not support someone’s creative pursuits because of their political preference, race, religion, etc… these things aren’t even characteristics about someone that ever cross my mind when falling in-love with talented people. I’ve tried to push their insults aside over the years and just appreciate their redeeming quality, being a great writer, instead. But every time since then, all of their hate-filled tweets feel directed at me and people like me who support the ‘other’ candidate and my own desire to reply and have a level headed conversation about politics has been stifled because I already know how a conversation like that would end with them. Someone can only be called horrible things so many times before they can’t forgive and forget; I’m personally not in the business of inviting people to hurt me. But what’s the biggest take away in this is that I’m an adult who can make my own choices in life – who can brush off someone’s ignorance and not let it break my soul, but they’ve still had this much of a negative effect on me; can you imagine how a teenager, who’s unsure about life, who’s looking to them as a mentor – someone they aspire to be one day, might feel if they’d tried to engage in this same conversation with them? I’m honestly shocked that publishers even let this sort of behavior take place on a platform that is a heavy marketing zone for a career they fund. I’m sad to say, I see this sort of activity on more profiles than just theirs. Professional people alienating their audience with hateful rhetoric on whatever today’s hot topic is. It’s so disappointing.
Maggie Stievfater weighed in on politics during the last election (HERE) and I remember feeling really glad she said all this and nothing else. I’m glad that she believes in being civil when it comes to politics, because it’d hurt so much to have to unfollow her and potentially miss out on all the great books she’s sure to write in the future, her being one of my favorite authors and all.
It’s unfortunate that from here on out, I will likely miss those authors or musicians latest releases and in turn stop helping them towards pursuing a career in art, which is something I avidly do because I’m a huge believer in paying for creativity. Sure, my one contribution probably isn’t going to make or break them; it probably matters very little to them to lose just one follower, but what if I’m not the only one? What if there are others who just can’t stand to see the hate anymore and have removed them from their feed. Many, like me, rely solely on social media as a means of keeping up to date with their favorite creative types.
I just wish everyone could show a little more decency where politics are concerned. That they’d be more aware of the different types of people who might be watching and make an effort to not alienate anyone who might think differently than them. I feel like a lot of this world’s problems come from this very thing: the absence of the good old Golden Rule and everyone’s need to shout their opinions every time one strikes, without any regard to how damaging the way in which they express that opinion might be to someone else.
I’m going to close this with just a little broad, good-natured political advice. Pay attention to the candidates themselves. Not the news pundits, not the headlines and snippets of out of context speech clips, not your role models opinions of these people. Research both candidates yourself, not just the party you think you align yourself with, and then support that candidate. Pour more of your energy into highlighting the reasons why you love that person than you spend on hating their opponent. Be a positive example of what a political discussion can be… because it doesn’t have to be a war. It doesn’t have to end friendships. There doesn’t need to be a fence at all.
I’m going to keep praying for both candidates and everyone they put in place to help them run our country to the best of their ability, and praying for my own reactions to other people’s hatred and how I too express my own political opinion, and also hoping that I don’t have to unfollow anyone else I admire before the election season is over. It wasn’t a decision I came to easily, but gosh it was so nice to wake up today to less hate in my feed. It doesn’t mean there weren’t still people in my feed with differing point of views than mine, but they weren’t classless in their effort to express that differing point of view.
[Note about Me: Like many fellow millennials, I am personally registered as an Independent and have actually voted for candidates in both parties in the elections I’ve been able to participate in since turning 18. In truth, I’d love to see the day we do away with parties altogether because I feel like too much hinges on the party title and its history than what the actual person represents. It might be a pipe dream to imagine a day when such an election exists, when candidates stand against nothing but themselves and what they bring to the table and the backing of a “party” isn’t a requirement, but I’m going to dream it anyway because I think it would really help us make better choices at the poll.]