October 25, 2010

Personal Politics

A year or so ago while we were pulling into our neighborhood, we found ourselves behind a minivan. Not a remarkable moment aside from the fact that the rear end of the minivan was littered with stickers proclaiming allegiance to the Bush/Cheney ticket, support for our states ultra right-wing governor and his cronies, a love of the NRA and a "Don't Tread On Me" snake. To top it all off, the license plate was a vanity job with the NRA seal in the middle and a custom plate number that spoke to some of those core NRA values. I turned to Beth and said, "well, there's someone we'd never get along with."

Fast forward to the summer. As I mentioned extensively, Mia got involved in our neighborhood swim team. IT was, for many reasons, a fantastic experience. One beneficial side-effect was the fact that we got to meet a lot of our neighbors as did our kids. They instantly fell in love with three sisters and we got to know and like their parents.

And as fate would have it this was the family who drove that minivan.

We never socialized outside of the standard pool activities but we'd all go to the pool and hang out together. The wife was a very strong yet softspoken woman; I always appreciated how she dealt with and spoke to her children. The husband was a big dude, former military yet shy and almost goofy at times. I instantly liked the guy even before I found out he and I graduated from the same high school.

Towards the end of the summer, the whole family came over to our place after Mia's birthday party. Everyone played and had a great time. And then we never heard from them again. Around August, Mia and I were riding our bikes and ran across the three sisters. We talked to them for a while but something was weird, like they'd been told to stay away. The husband was cleaning out his truck and I talked to him for a while. But as with the sisters, something was off. And that was it.

We don't hide our politics. My car is adorned with several pro-Obama stickers and there's an Obama sticker prominently displayed on the inside of our front door. That's the only thing I can blame for the vanishing of some folks who could have become friends.

I've always believed that our politics are only one part of what make us who we are. They don't totally define us. But if for some reason this whole thing came down to politics - and I honestly suspect it does - its truly heartbreaking. Because it demonstrates to me that people can base their entire perception of me based on who I voted for.

Have you ever felt discriminated against or judged because of your beliefs?

Posted by Chris at October 25, 2010 7:11 AM

As you know, I'm a conservative. I am registered as an Independent, but tend to have more conservative values than many people I know. I grew up On Cape Cod in the heart of Kennedy Country, and never felt more discriminated against in my entire life! In fact when I graduated from High School all I wanted was to escape Cape Cod and move to a place where I wouldn't be judged "bad" if I weren't a liberal democrat!

Now, 32 years later, I'm living in a state that is about 50/50 in it's electorate. But I am not discriminated against, or at least I don't feel that I am.

I do not judge someone by their bumper stickers. I may note that we aren't on the same page, but I certainly wouldn't toss them out of my social circle for disagreeing with me. Heck most of my family and I don't agree on politics. We all sort of agreed long ago just not to make it an issue in our lives.

Sorry this family has had the problem. I saw it again and again when I lived on the Cape. And it feels crappy.

Posted by: Maribeth at October 25, 2010 7:55 AM

Yup, it happened to me. Right after the Bush/Gore elections, the right wing folk would clearly keep their distance. Somehow politics became 100% of their lives, and if you had the wrong bumper sticker or the wrong view, you were out. My son is in Boy Scouts, so there its hard to say what you think about politics and not be outcast. So we keep that part of our lives quiet.

Posted by: Jon (was) in Michigan at October 25, 2010 7:58 AM

My mom has been really involved in politics since I was in high school or so. She is one of those nutty tea baggers. Anyway, overy the years I have seen her lost some great friendships over politics. There was some real ugliness that destroyed good friends and I swore I would never ever let politics come between any friends and I. I;ve done pretty well over the years, being able to separate the two and knowing what topics not to discuss with what friends. Until the 2008 election. It didn't matter to me who these particular friends were supporting but they could not stand that I was supporting Obama. It drive them nuts and made them very passive aggressive towards me. Snarky remarks on facebook, private jokes with others. I ignored it for the most part and the election passed, they got over it and we moved on, or so I thought. The hostilities continued, the passive aggression became less passive and became outright nasty. I still tried to ignore it, and reminded myself that we had other things in common and shared some common interests and had some great times together. I guess it wasn't enough for them as this past spring they "unfriended" me on facebook (lolol...OMG- how horrifying!!) and soon after we stopped speaking completely.

Guess they couldn't get past it. I like to think I am the bigger person and I feel sorry for their narrow mindedness. They surround themselves with people who are exactly like them. How boring.

Posted by: Lisa at October 25, 2010 8:01 AM

I try not to mix politics with friendship!

I have had moments where I meet awesome people and think, "Surely these guys are as liberal as I am." Only to find that they are staunch conservatives. And it totally blows my mind; here I am thinking that these funny, intelligent, educated, white-collar folks voted for THAT guy? Finally, I just stopped thinking about it at all. Made a huge difference in my life.

On the flip-side, I have felt snubbed by those same conservatives and then I figured that was the difference, I was willing to break the barrier regardless of our differing ideologies and they were not.

Can't win them all.

Posted by: Angelica at October 25, 2010 8:15 AM

All the time. I live in South Texas. Most of the time I have to hide my beliefs completely because of my work. I can't afford to have people hate me because I am a moderate and voted for Obama. The couple of people who do love to blame me for everything (because i voted for him) and are convinced that our country is going to Hell if he isn't voted out, he hates our country and how can you NOT love Sarah Palin? Because I don't dare put a yard sign out or a bumper sticker on my car, it would be more from my side that friendships do not become closer. When I see THEIR bumper stickers "Keep your change" "Miss me now?" with the pic of Bush etc., I already know that I will not care for these people and remain distant.

Posted by: Debbie at October 25, 2010 8:32 AM

Since pretty much my (and my husband's) entire families are polar opposite of us politically we've learned to just keep our mouth shut at family gatherings. I learned that many, many years ago while in high school. So I listen politely and don't offer an opinion (ok, occasionally I can't help it) and just keep the peace while in the same room with them. It can get frustrating but worth it so the family dynamic isn't strained.

Posted by: daisy at October 25, 2010 8:34 AM

Not discrimination, but I had to cut loose a few friends in 2008 that simply could not deal with the possibility of a black guy as President.

Posted by: COD at October 25, 2010 8:58 AM

I am THE republican out of my group of friends. They are all left leaning pinky communists democrats. We discuss politics on a regular basis. We aregue politics on a regular basis. I thought that was what the whole living together in a community thing was about.

I don't think the 3 sisters and family are keeping their distance because of politicis. It is probably because you are a vegetarian.

Posted by: William at October 25, 2010 9:07 AM

See, this is the problem I have with religion and politics... people use it as a means of separation and dislike... or worse. Such a shame really, perhaps you could have been great friends.

It's all two sides of the same coin anyhow.

Posted by: jessica at October 25, 2010 9:46 AM

I truly enjoy discussions with people who can enlighten me to their perspectives and who see things differently and how can speak calmly and rationally about their beliefs and mine.

I'm NOT such a fan of blanket hate for a political party, or judging people based on their political beliefs. So I try not to do it.

Some of my best friends are total conservatives and even though I couldn't be any more opposite of them on a political spectrum, we get along fabulously anyway. And those that are truly prone to heated political discussions... welllllll.... we just avoid those talks.

I live in an area where most people are conservative (and frankly, it's not uncommon for military people to be EVEN MORE so conservative from what my husband says - he's pretty much the oddball - and was once reprimanded for saying he didn't like GWB). I'm definitely the oddball here... and I just tend to avoid discussions with people I have only surface relatoinships with.

Posted by: Sarah at October 25, 2010 9:52 AM

Yes. But I get discriminated against for a lot of reasons. I'm guessing everyone on this list does, too.

What I've been telling myself now is to try and deal with the fact that even sometimes the best of friends can't deal with my career being better than theirs or that I can point out flaws in their arguments (super liberal and super conservative alike) or that no matter how much a person wants to come across as open-minded, we're all programmed with hiccups and bumps to that process.

To have no prejudices and judge people openly, we would need unconditional love for everyone. We wouldn't necessarily like them, but love them. I think that's why I dig my religion. I may not be that good, but there's someone who is that good out there.

And my last point -- did you really want the kids over at a house with guns in it?

Posted by: alektra at October 25, 2010 10:48 AM

I don't know, did you use the term "tea baggers"? I am a conservative, and to me, that is incredibly disrespectful and disgusting. I am appalled by the way people just toss it around as if it is an accepted description for a group of people.
If not, I don't know. I have liberal friends, but we don't talk about politics much. It just does not get us anywhere good.
I am sorry this happened, and Mia lost out on friendships with the daughters, but I would not worry about it too much. Their loss.

Posted by: Tess at October 25, 2010 10:51 AM

Also, last Thanksgiving I was at my mom's house and she told me to hide my book by Glenn Beck because my step-father might see it.
In June I shared a ride with my step-father, mother, sister and my brother's best friend to the airport. I was the only conservative in the two-hour long car ride. It was all anti-conservative, pro-socialism talk and I just kept myself quiet. I was sincerely offended a couple of times and uncomfortable the entire time.

Posted by: Tess at October 25, 2010 11:02 AM

That just sucks.

Posted by: Heather at October 25, 2010 11:53 AM

As a permanent resident, I can't vote so that's my excuse not to engage in political talk with anyone...including my Libertarian husband. I also use that to end the beginning of a political debate between hubby and our group of mostly Democrat friends. "I don't vote. So I don't care. Change subject. CHANGE IT NOW!" They've come to know that's the stopping point.

There's a wife of friend's got more distant after a fall out after a Facebook debate. But that was it.

However, my Democrat friends diagnosed me as a Conservative Democrat. :)

Posted by: oakley at October 25, 2010 12:01 PM

I don't know if discrimination is the word, but my husband, my ex, and I got involved in a mildly-heated debate with my HS friend and her husband about Prop 8 (California's gay marriage ammendment). Friend and Her Husband had some pretty lame reasons why they wanted to vote for it, and ultimately, Her Husband unfriended me on FB.

Some people have political opinions that make me question their fundamental values/character. Trampling on someone's civil rights because of your religious beliefs is not something I (as a Christian) support. So I have to wonder whether I want to know those people.

BUT, merely voting for Bush or asserting your 2nd Amendment rights is no reason to not socialize, so I think it's odd that your neighbors would do that. My husband has 4 (four!) "No on 8" stickers on his minivan - two on the back, one on each front door - so who knows how many people have declined to introduce themselves to us because of that?

Posted by: Brooke at October 25, 2010 12:51 PM

Definitely; I work in an office that is pretty conservative, and I've found it is easier to not talk politics except to occasionally argue some point here or there. As far as I can tell, we've reached the point in our democracy where we have completely forgotten that it's a melting pot, not just of people, but of ideas. And that means compromise and debate and sometimes arguments over what the right course of action is.

I think one of the things that marks our time is that we live in an age of machines and systems that are not only beyond our control, but beyond our comprehension. On a very mundane level, take the space shuttle getting damaged by foam. Common sense was ruling the day, saying that packing foam couldn't have blown a hole in the wing. And then there it was. Or take the economic meltdown; here was a group of very smart people, who manipulated the system in ways that they thought would give a good result ( at least for them ), and then the whole thing imploded. And here we are, everyday Jane and Joes, trying to live our lives, and we keep hoping that _somebody_ has the answer ( and a quick solution because our patience is all but gone ) to the problems of the world. And the bottom line is that no one person, or group, has an handle on it. You see this in an extreme in the hopes of a singularity; a conscious machine that can wrap it's noggin around the complexity that ails us and essentially auto-correct to make our world better. And maybe it will. Or maybe we'll program it wrong and it will decide that it is just more efficient to eat us for fuel.

So, to get back to the point at hand, I believe that we have reached the point that your shaman is different than my shaman, and since my shaman says your shaman has bad hoo-doo, I don't want to associate with you.

I will say that I have several friends who are conservative, and while at time we have spirited debates ( and a few arguments ) we get a long fine, and neither of our crops have withered. Or to put it another way, if you are dealing with someone who will judge you by your bumper stickers, then maybe you dodged a bullet on that one anyway...

Posted by: metawizard at October 25, 2010 12:59 PM

But Chris, you did the same thing. Seeing the bumper stickers on their van - you said "I turned to Beth and said, "well, there's someone we'd never get along with."" While I understand that you got to know them - I wonder - had you seen them all walking to the car following swimming before Mia became friends with them - how would you have interacted with them in the future?

I'm a Christ follower. And I have been since I was 12. And I live in Las Vegas. I got married at 19, had my first baby at 22, and was called all sorts of derogatory things because of that decision. I identify myself as a democrat - and I think socialism (Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland all seem like good places to live for me) may be a good idea. I have been discriminated against for years. Judged? Always. For my beliefs, for how I've lived my life, for how I'm raising my sons, for the company I keep, for the church I attend, for the church I don't attend, for my political leanings, for eating a whole food diet (which doesn't have anything to do with shopping at Whole Foods, although I do on occasion), for having an 8 year old with an autism spectrum disorder, etc., etc. The list goes on and on. I deal with it.

Posted by: Mindy at October 25, 2010 1:03 PM

Didn't you do the same thing when you identified the people in the minivan as ones who you would never get along with?

Posted by: Nicole at October 25, 2010 1:05 PM

But Chris, you did the same thing. Seeing the bumper stickers on their van - you said "I turned to Beth and said, "well, there's someone we'd never get along with."" While I understand that you got to know them - I wonder - had you seen them all walking to the car following swimming before Mia became friends with them - how would you have interacted with them in the future?

I'm a Christ follower. And I have been since I was 12. And I live in Las Vegas. I got married at 19, had my first baby at 22, and was called all sorts of derogatory things because of that decision. I identify myself as a democrat - and I think socialism (Denmark, Sweden, Norway and Iceland all seem like good places to live for me) may be a good idea. I have been discriminated against for years. Judged? Always. For my beliefs, for how I've lived my life, for how I'm raising my sons, for the company I keep, for the church I attend, for the church I don't attend, for my political leanings, for eating a whole food diet (which doesn't have anything to do with shopping at Whole Foods, although I do on occasion), for having an 8 year old with an autism spectrum disorder, etc., etc. The list goes on and on. I deal with it.

Posted by: Mindy at October 25, 2010 1:13 PM

I believe I have felt that discrimination, but can't be entirely sure. People don't usually just come out and say it :P
I think it's extremely important to surround yourself with people of varying views - the only way to have any intelligent debate is to have genuinely different but well-articulated thoughts and opinions! And intelligent debate or discussion is necessary for progress or really any good thing, because no one is well served by ignorance.

Posted by: Heather at October 25, 2010 1:56 PM

and what was it you said to Beth when you saw the back of that van?

We all do it Chris, it's just how our society has made us. I don't like it any more than you do but it's a fact of life and one that won't change anytime soon.

Posted by: Jeff A at October 25, 2010 2:16 PM

This is exactly why I quit putting stickers on my car. Should have seen my Jeep when Bush was in office and in last election.

I strongly believe in free speech, but it has consequences. I cringe when I happen to get behind someone like the mini van as I'm sure the other side did when they got behind me. We all attach labels to each other that aren't entirely fair based on a quick assessment of who we feel they are based upon their bumper stickers.

Good, honest debates just doesn't happen very often anymore. I have many liberal friends and more conservative family and friends than I'd care to admit. I steer clear of the subject with anyone that I know isn't liberal unless they bring it up, as rarely do I run across anyone that has anything to say other than talking points from Fox News. Nor do they rarely ever want a real debate. Just not worth my time or trouble to argue over it.

You made a statement about the van, but you were wrong. Despite their views being opposite of yours, you all got along well. Several of my closest friends are conservatives.

It's a shame. You could ask to meet with the other Dad one on one to get to the bottom of this, but if your certain this is why the family dumped your family--it probably isn't worth it. Knowing for sure might make you feel better.

Posted by: One Mom's Opinion at October 25, 2010 3:35 PM

I'm an Athiest, bleeding heart Liberal Canadian (socialized medicine for the win!) and yes, I am discriminated by others for being that way...but I'm too polite to bring it up and really sorry that I mentioned it, Eh?

Posted by: Procrastamom at October 25, 2010 3:37 PM

You may feel slighted, but you did the exact same thing to them without giving them the benefit of the doubt.

Bush vs. Obama. Republican vs. Democrat. It's such a mess in Washington that I think EVERYONE in our government should be fired and we should start completely over. Our founding fathers are probably hanging their heads in shame as they watch our country continue its drastic downward spiral.

What many have forgotten is we are all people. One community. One nation trying desperately to pull ourselves out of this deep hole we've dug and so far, from my very humble opinion, we haven't made any headway. What we should all remember is we need to lean on each other to find success.

It will happen again, no doubt. Take it as a learning experience and move on. Be better for the next time.

Posted by: Patience at October 25, 2010 3:40 PM

When I still lived in SC, my car was egged back in 2008, and I firmly believe it was because of the Obama sticker on the back.

Posted by: Stephanie at October 25, 2010 7:47 PM

Is it possibly your assumption is wrong?

Posted by: Dee at October 25, 2010 8:24 PM

It's definitely human to make judgements about people based on their politics, especially if that's the first thing you know about them (because they have bumper stickers or lawn signs or whatnot). However, I agree that it's only a small part of who someone is and that you should at least try to get to know someone as a person before deciding that you don't get along with them. I don't really discuss politics all that often with my friends, so I honestly have no idea where most of them fall on the spectrum. I may completely disagree with what they believe, but if I enjoy their company I can get past that, especially because it's not a thing that comes up all the time.

What really gets me about your story is that both of you are pretty out there (bumper stickers, etc) with proclaiming your political affiliation. You were very clearly able to see past that and become friends with them and just not worry about the differences, but they, apparently, were not. To me, that's just sort of sad.

Posted by: Dawn at October 25, 2010 10:14 PM

Well, there's a huge election going in Toronto today. I am so caught in the middle because my husband is a staunch supporter of the guy all my friends loathe. It's not a good feeling! People here are totally making gross judgments based on who you're voting for. It's sad. Because the vote is clearly more complicated than that.

Posted by: Haley-O (Cheaty) at October 25, 2010 11:27 PM

I remember being the only guy in my Marine platoon to vote for Clinton. Strangely enough, even in that environment, it wasn't enough to generate more than a comment or two.

Fast forward to the present day and it seems differing political views are enough to set neighbor against neighbor and brother against brother. Strangely enough, I had one woman tell me she couldn't date me because I wasn't liberal enough, and another a year or so later end a relationship because I wasn't a conservative. To me, that would seem to mean I'm doing it just about right.

There are some ugly things happening and being said today in this country. Things I'm sure our founders would cringe at. If they could figure out how to forge this country despite their differences, I'd like to think we could rediscover that spirit of compromise. In the end, absolutism never works for anyone.

Posted by: Foggy Dew at October 26, 2010 9:43 AM

So you're upset that they did the same thing to you that you so readily did to them? What's worse - doing so after getting to know you (and in which case, maybe its something about you, not your politics) or judging them right from the start, as you did based on bumper stickers? Sad that you can't see that maybe they saw through the stickers and just rejected you for the snarky attitude that comes across in just this one post.

Posted by: at October 26, 2010 10:26 AM

i went to law school in louisiana - oh, my lord, was i the subject of some serious derision. i had to endure so much foolishness during the '08 election. i had to listen to right-wing fundie foolishness all the time, spewed by people who, like that crazy woman in delaware, claim to defend the constitution without ever having read it.

ugh. it's obnoxious. i always say that i am beyond proud that i've only ever kissed one republican. it might be a sad fact, but it's usually a fact that this kind of political division just precludes the ability to be friends with someone. and really? i blame the newt gingrich-led movement in 1994 for their nastiness, their poisonous venom, their refusal to work across the aisle... it's been nearly 20 years and it's only getting worse. sigh.

Posted by: magnolia at October 26, 2010 11:50 AM

i guess the question is... did you talk to the parents about the cooling off and why it might be the case?

if anything - it's a bummer for sure. politics doesn't have to carry into our kids and their ability to play with one another and just be kids.

and yet it's such a large part of who we are. so much that i never ever ever talk about it with louisiana-based family. can you guess which side they are on? we just focus on the other stuff - family things and don't feel the need to be vocal about politics.

it's like my dear friend who i've known my whole life. the other day she "liked" sarah palin on fb. she's very religious, very conservative. i wasn't too shocked to see her declaration but was shocked to see how public it was. i guess i feel like i don't want to overly tout my feeling on public areas because i want to be considered for me and not how i stand politically.

Posted by: kat at October 26, 2010 4:39 PM

You mean by someone other than my family? In fact, my sister-in-law is no longer speaking to me when I disagreed that Obama was microchipping people against their will under the health care bill. Of course, my parents and brother have on occasion refused to visit with me because I am a liberal democrat (they are staunch right-wingers and founding members of the tea party). When I said that Sara Palin was an idiot, my mother didn't speak to me for a week. So, yes, yes I have.

Posted by: Michelle at October 26, 2010 5:19 PM

There's a reason that we don't discuss politics at family gatherings. I like my family a whole lot more when politics are off the table.

Posted by: Hope at October 26, 2010 8:25 PM

Did you share any of your bathroom stories at Mia's after party? My posse is pretty much 50/50 on the donkey/elephant debate. I did work in a city that was beyond liberal and I did indeed feel judged:-)

Posted by: at October 27, 2010 7:01 PM