I am not a big fan of Facebook. Or rather, I am not a big fan of what Facebook brings out in me. A few years back, I took a much welcomed hiatus that only ended with my need to utilize social media in order to promote my book. I have enjoyed being back in the loop more than I thought I would. I like challenging an old friend to a game of Words With Friends or learning about the marathon that a college classmate that I don’t really remember just ran. When things turn political, however, I get a bit uncomfortable. There is often something presumptuous in the way people post their political opinions online, an assumption that by being “friends” we must share more than just part of our past.
When confronted with strongly worded missives from either side of the aisle, I must confess, I have been tempted to simply de-friend the offender or at least hide any further posting. But the other day, a college acquaintance threw down the gauntlet and I chose to face the challenge head on. I carefully worded my comment, attempting to at least fake open-mindedness, though I hoped I was doing more than faking it. And guess what? My acquaintance didn’t reach through the computer screen and yell at me. He responded with great civility and we moved on to new recipes and amusing e-cards.
While I was pleased with this encounter with civil political discourse, I was embarrassed to realize how hesitant I am to share my political views in an unfiltered environment. Admitting a strong leaning to one political affiliation or another feels like an invitation for backslapping from one side of the aisle and discord with another. Why is arguing about politics such a big deal? I have debated with people about plenty of issues, so why should I shy away from doing so on political topics?
I guess the problem boils down to the fact that I love being right but hate making other people feel “wrong.” I discovered this when I finally won a game of Settlers of Catan only to realize that in order for me to win, other people had to loss. I have always assumed the same to be true of political battles. One side wins and the other loses. But what if this isn’t necessarily true? Isn’t our country based on the idea of checks and balances? Aren’t there plenty of goals we all agree on? The differences seem to be ones of means rather than ends. I don’t hate poor people or the environment. I don’t stay up late at night hoping for more wars or economic disaster. When did politics become such a winner takes all proposition?
I have been greatly encouraged by Mitt Romney’s recent comments regarding the issue of compromise. He has said he isn’t willing to compromise on the goals but the methods are up for negotiation. While some might say this is a lack of clear planning, I see it as an opportunity for bi-partisanship. Maybe if we all stop looking at the future of the country as a mere game, we just might all manage to win.