I am new to Facebook. I am still learning the subtleties of the popular social network. Why I was so late in coming to Facebook will be the topic for another blog entry. A Facebook message did however provide the topic for this letter.
I received a message from a dear old friend. It was simple and pointed, "Mark, honestly, you support Mitt the twit." Wow... the conventions have not even happened yet. I have not actually decided who I was going to vote for and I am already taking grief.
This is exactly the kind of banter and criticism that inspired me to write STFU! in January of 2011. My poor friend is probably still wondering why my response was so hostile to her little “Mitt the Twit” jab. An apology is probably in order.
I do not mind discussions. I think debates are healthy. It just really ticks me off when an opening salutation, or should I say salvo, is a something akin to “you are a moron for supporting…” fill in the blank.
To me there is not much debate in the election thus far. People are not weighing the candidates and whatever platform they are actually committing to. Most people that say anything about the election have already taken the standard of one candidate and consider the other the personification of evil. I have an open and meaningful discussion with just three people who are also undecided. It felt good to discussion the state of the country and the merits of each candidate without any hyperbole and personal attacks. It was civilized and good even if we did not agree.
The Facebook message was prompted because I actually follow Mitt Romney. Honestly, I do not remember inviting him or being invited by him. Nevertheless, his postings now appear in my news feed or wall or whatever it is called. It should be noted that I also follow Barack Obama on twitter. Neither of the candidates impress me and neither of social networking is having any impact on what I think about them. If anything the social networking of both candidates makes me think less of them. Furthermore, neither of the political parties impress me. One exception to this is that I do like our congressman Robert Dold. I have met and talked to him. I appreciate his candor and opinions. He happens to be a Republican.
Yes, I did just write that. Yes, I follow Barak Obama on Twitter. I hope people do not take me to task for this. More people in my circle of friends and acquaintances will come after me on this than the few barbs I have gotten for following Romney on Facebook. By taking me to task, I mean they are aghast, offended, and take it personally (maybe even anti-personally). They are always bringing up things like socialism, Obama-care, his citizenship, my intelligence or lack thereof, bail-outs, jobs, taxes, aliens (I am assuming the earthly variety).
Why do people comment on who I voted for, which candidate I am following on Twitter, and which candidate I friended on Facebook? People that comment favor one candidate over the other axiomatically and emphatically. They are either liberal and support Obama or they are conservative and support Romney. I am still pondering and trying to decide who to actually vote for and folks are already starting to chastise me based solely on whom they assume I am voting for
Does my not agreeing with them weaken their position that much?
I tend to ask myself the question from the George W. Bush versus Bill Clinton election: Am I better off now than I was four years ago? Asking this question made me vote for Barack Obama in the last election. It may well make me vote against him this time around. I am not sure if this is a good strategy or rational decision making methodology.
Nevertheless it is a methodology. I am not simply following my demographic as many I know do and as many assume that I do.
I see a lot of anti-Obama sentiment. The people that I know that are against Obama are very intense in their feelings. They believe his policies are socialist and are ruining the country as witnessed in Soviet area style illustration. They are vehemently against his healthcare initiative. Most of them that read this paragraph will undoubtedly feel the need to sermonize further with even greater fervor. The furor and fervor will probably be in my general direction. I suppose I can make it easy for them by just having them reading the last sentence three paragraphs up in their own tone of righteous indignation. The only thing I really must insist upon is that they please make it brief.
If saying nothing in the previous paragraph makes anti-Obama folks agitated, wait until they read the two points here. First, Obama took over in the worst economic crisis since the Great Depression. He and his team did what they had to avert having just a Great Recession instead of a depression that might have dwarfed the 1929 one. Obama's socialist policies saved General Motors, one of the great icons of American capitalism. Second, he is offering healthcare to a growing proportion of our people inadequate healthcare or no healthcare at all. How many of these people are voting for Romney or voting against Obama? Is he destined to be the Jimmy Carter of our era... albeit without an entertaining brother?
Am I talking myself into voting for Obama again? I am not really sure. I keep asking if I am better off now than I was four years ago. The answer is a clear NO. Whose fault is that? Obama's or mine? Gee... I do not like the answer to that question either.
This means that I not only do not hate Obama, but I give him credit where credit is due. (Did you just feel the blood pressure of the anti-Obama crowd just go up?) He is due some credit and the respect of the office he holds. I really believe that we need to give the respect of the president we collectively elected even if individually we did not vote for him. Is he the right man to lead our country to where we need to be in five or ten years? Almost no one even asks this question in a meaningful open minded way. Is Romney that man?
With Romney picking Paul Ryan as his running mate, the anti-Romney venom has been raised a few notches. Ryan is being portrayed as a right wing nut case. He seemed to make a choice that really solidifies the polarization I am writing about here. Choosing Paul Ryan confirms to his opposition that Romney is just a rich guy who wants to help other rich people keep their money and keep down the rest of the folk.
Romney understands business. He is a very successful and smart business man that has moved into public service. Why? If Mitt Romney was only interested in money, in wealth, he would have stayed on the corporate side of things and grown his fortunes faster. Why then is he viewed as a fat cat? Did he enter politics to get richer? Probably not. Is he doing it for power? I imagine anyone running for President of the United States is probably doing it in some part for power. I have to believe he wants to influence the future of this country. He believes that his business experience and acumen may be what this country needs to implement policies that will generate new jobs.
We need to create an environment where entrepreneurs like Romney can take the risk and ply their energies to create new businesses in this country. It seems Romney is more likely to be able to do this than Obama.
What else do I like about Romney? What else might actually tick off all in supporters of Obama? I am impressed that as a Republican that he actually got elected governor of Massachusetts. That is an amazing feat. Whether either extreme likes it or not, he championed an Obama-care like health care system in Massachusetts. That is impressive and the kind of centrist thinking that I like.
He picked Ryan to placate the extreme views of his party. This impresses me less but it is the kind of chess move that is often necessary in politics. I do like that it is the first presidential ticket without a protestant. Romney is Mormon and Ryan is a Catholic. While this is notable, historically, the country has changed so much in my lifetime that it is really a big ho-hummer at this point.
I did get a chuckle out of the comparison of Mitt and Paul to Herman and Eddie that popped up on the internet seconds after Ryan was chosen as Romney’s running mate.
What I really do not like is people giving me grief for any this. I am a moron if I vote for Romney. I am a lunatic if I vote for Obama. Really? Give me a break for not jumping to a polarized position others want me to have. Excuse me for seriously considering my minimal right to choose who to vote for.
I have had some great discussions with people that are not emotional about one candidate or the other. We actually want to know what the other thinks. What is it about Obama and Romney that we like? What is about them that we do not like? And in both cases, why? Neither is as good as their supporters believe and neither is as bad as their detractors think. This might make me wishy-washy. Maybe it makes me thoughtful. It matters not. I will make a decision and vote on Election Day.
My maternal grandfather Levon was a simple and humble man. He was born in the 1890s in Shabin-karahisar in what was then the Ottoman Empire and today is Turkey. He survived the deportations and genocide. With his cousin, they made their way to the United States and settled in Detroit getting jobs in the foundry at Ford Motor Company. He could speak a little English but I am not sure how much he could read. I know he could sign his name in English but probably could not write much more. He would read the Armenian Daily newspaper. I can still hear him whispering the words as he read.
I remember well into his senility, I believe during the 1968 presidential election, I had collected bumper stickers and buttons from both candidates. He was watching me show these to my mother and grandmother. He knew these were election items and he surprised all of us by blurting out, "Dewey Dewey go to hell, Truman Truman ring da bell" and he laughed. I assumed that the UAW taught him and other workers that slogan. To me, too many people are simply chanting a 2012 version of this old UAW slogan.
OK, I am not so naïve to believe that this election is so unique. Nixon polarized people as did Clinton. People either adored or hated these men as candidates and then as presidents. People that were anti-Nixon or anti-Clinton could not fathom how anyone could be so naïve or ignorant enough to vote for them. There is a general dynamic in the very nature of elections that is polarizing. The Johnson – Goldwater election was particularly venomous. I suppose my polarization is taking is coming from a different angle. I am just tired of the hyperbole and dramatic rhetoric.
I had exchanged emails just this week with my very smart cousin David. I truly believe he is smart though I have to admit that part of this belief has is based on the fact that we often agree on things. He like me is a fiscal conservative and a social moderate. His last email was to inquire if I had finished my monthly letter. I wrote and told him it was in the works. I also communicated the topic of the letter. He immediately wrote back and provided the perfect closing for this letter:
I've actually decided to disengage to a dramatic extent from the whole political scene (but specifically the presidential race) due to all the lies and obfuscation emanating from each side. At first I was frustrated, then angry and now sick to my stomach. ENOUGH!
Thanks David, this sums it quite nicely for me!