I don’t think there is anyone out there who hasn’t had conflicts on social media with friends and family members over politics. During the days right after the election, I had what I thought was a great old friend drop me because I said that I didn’t think we should be signing petitions saying we wanted to secede. But I thought it had all more or less died down until today.
Apparently I’m the last to know, but the filmmaker Michael Moore started a movement last year on Twitter to get people to take a 30 minute walk every night. Last night, someone on my Facebook friends list posted a link to Moore’s end-of-year statement about the 30 minute walks, in which he made some good points about the fitness and diet industries preying on people’s self-esteem. I didn’t read it as a political statement, just a nice sentiment about taking a walk to feel better instead of paying to join a gym or drinking a Diet Coke. So I reposted.
Well, a guy I’ve known since 8th grade got angry about my post. He told me that he’d like to know what route Moore was walking so he could run him over, and then he said some other stuff about propaganda, and that he despised Moore. This is not the first time this friend has ranted about liberals on Facebook, because in the past he asked everyone who is a Democrat to just unfriend him. I didn’t do it that time, because I have good memories of our past, but I was shocked that this guy I had been friends with as a kid had grown up to be so angry.
But this time, I was tempted to just block him. Here is my old friend advocating violence against another guy because he said we should all go take a walk in the evening. And even though he’ll likely never have a chance to run over Michael Moore, and I’m about 99.9 percent he wouldn’t if he could, he’s picking a fight with me, when I never thought we had any problems between us personally.
Instead, I went for a walk myself, and I thought about my friend. I thought about the tours he has done in Iraq. Considering the way my dad said he felt unappreciated after coming home from being drafted to Vietnam, I figured that Iraq war veterans must feel even worse about being unappreciated, because they went of their own volition. I also thought about the time my friend and I went to take our learner’s permit tests at the same time, and the fact that he called me to commiserate about how terrifying it was to drive on the road after we both had driven home. I found it touching as a 15 year old that a guy would call me up and admit to being scared. I also thought about the time he drove from his college one state over to my college just to go to the movies with me. This is a person, not the color red, and not the entire Republican party. And so I told him that I understood how he as a member of the military might feel about Michael Moore, and I left it at that. I suppose he was okay with that too, since he’s still on my friends list.
I have decided that this is my big resolution for 2013: I am not going to make political statements on social media anymore, and I’m not going to argue with anyone else who does. The idea of political parties has nearly torn this country apart during the past year in a way that I have not witnessed before in my almost forty years on earth. Most importantly, I’m going to try to remind myself that every conservative, and every liberal, is someone’s old friend from high school who they cherished at one point in their lives. I probably won’t go out of my way to stay friends with people who are serious bigots, and I’m not talking about legitimizing the views of actual trolls like Ann Coulter and Rush Limbaugh, but if our views on foreign policy or fiscal issues differ, that’s between each voter and the politicians they vote for. It’s not a personal dispute between me and every person who doesn’t vote Democrat.
All of our fellow voters have achieved something positive in their lives besides having an opinion. I mean, when my son, Mario, asked me what rock music was, I didn’t play him a U2 song because Bono is a liberal. Hell no, I fired up “Stranglehold” by super crazy Ted Nugent, and then my son and I wrote a song together for Mario’s future rock band, Dirtee Pigz. It was the right thing to do.