You can’t choose your family, but I have friends with whom I wholeheartedly disagree in terms of politics. In the past, these differences haven’t been a big deal for me. I don’t love it, I don’t get it, but I can respect our varied points of view. Over the past few years, however, our political parties have been swinging to extremes. The differences in our political viewpoints has become increasingly profound.
To my friends who have said that we should just look past our political differences, I now have to say, “No.” Because it’s no longer about big government vs. small government, views on the military, or the rate of my taxes. As the extremes have come into play, it’s about civil liberties. It’s about extending the same rights and protections to all members of our society.
To many of my friends, this is a philosophical debate about other nameless, faceless people. Or if there is a person, they don’t quite count because they aren’t “like the others.” And, yes, this is something people say to me. But I don’t see it that way. When people make disparaging remarks at all related to gay marriage (from a strong stance against it to a modified “don’t ask, don’t tell” point of view), I hear it as an attack on my marriage which not so long ago would have been up for debate. When they rail against “the lazy people” in the welfare system, I take that as an attack on my own mother who, as single parent, struggled to make ends meet while working full-time as a teacher. I also understand that to mean that they would rather that I had gone hungry as a child rather than take the chance that I was somehow abusing the system. These are real people like me.
I know that the presidential election isn’t just about these humanitarian and civil rights issues, but I just can’t seem to think how anything else could be more important than our citizens and our civil liberties. That’s the foundation of this country. THAT is what is supposed to make America a wonderful place to live. And not just for those of us who were lucky enough to be born into the majority. If you choose to stay silent on these because your priorities fall elsewhere, you are doing harm. History has shown this over and over again. If enough Republicans refused to vote for a party that does not support the rights of all US citizens, the party would be forced to rethink its stance and we could go back to debating the things we should actually be voting about. But either way, if you are not willing to stand up for marginalized people, you are not willing to stand up for me. Civil rights are a slippery slope.
When the results of this election are available, I will support the winner in doing his (or if something miraculous were to happen, her) job until such a point where I could not morally or ethically do so. I don’t intend to complain, threaten, celebrate, or anything else. I respect that each American citizen has a right to decide for themselves, regardless of how it impacts anyone else. I understand that these are my values, and that I can’t expect anyone but myself to live by them. But the game has changed and I feel like I need to take a stand.
Please don’t ask me to put my politics aside for friendship. There are those who sacrificed for me, and right now, I’m paying it forward.