Two days ago, I deleted my Facebook. Not forever, certainly – Facebook is the only way I can keep in touch with a lot of friends who have moved away, and I’m a member of several groups on the website that allows me to share my thoughts and feelings with like-minded people. Plus, cat GIFs.
I deleted my Facebook because I was tired. It’s Election Season 2016, and the last two election cycles have seen me enthusiastically participating in passionate debates with all manner of people. This was true especially in 2008, because two good friends were voting the Republican ticket and I was all Obama, all the way, and I really wanted to see why they were voting the way they were. This season, I have thrown my hat into the ring in support of Hillary Clinton while many of my friends are in solid support of Bernie Sanders.
Great, I thought to myself. This is a way for me to see what’s going on in my own party. It’ll be a fun way to really delve into good, solid political discussion, while also remaining cognizant of the fact that despite our inter-party disagreements, we know who the “enemy really is,” to quote Haymitch Abernathy.
I was wrong.
Before I go further, let me just explain my side of things, because, in the words of a former friend whom I had to let go of due to various insulting things thrown my way, “How can you call yourself a liberal and vote for someone like that?”
It’s very easy, actually.
I’ve been a fan of Hillary Clinton for a very, very long time. I admired the fact that she was a powerful liberal force who wasn’t someone to just stand behind her husband. She was a force of her own and once I grew up into the feminist I am today I started to really appreciate just how much she had done and has done for women. Yes, she supported Bill’s disastrous crime bill of 1994, but Bernie Sanders was a proponent of that bill, too. And Hillary has verbally regretted her support of that bill.
(This is also a time to say that if Bernie gets the nomination, I will support and vote for him no question. Because I would prefer to NOT start a new Armageddon by abstaining and letting someone like Trump take over, or someone like Cruz try to invade my uterus. My uterus is fine just the way it is.)
The Benghazi hearing only made me admire her more. This woman does her homework, and you can’t really clock her when it comes to a line of questioning. I trust her in front of a room full of politicians. I also feel like I can trust her in a room with Putin. I don’t feel that way about Bernie. I trust him as a firebrand in the Senate, not as someone who can throw down with foreign leaders of the world.
And then of course there’s the “warmongering” diatribe, something I’ve gotten for a long time regarding my support of Hillary. I came of age to vote in 2003, right after we invaded Iraq. It has been a common thread in this election cycle by pro-Bernie enthusiasts that Hillary voted “yes” to the war in Iraq. Well I’ve got news for you – had I been in the same situation, I would have voted “yes” too. I truly believed, as a young naïve person, that the war in Iraq was something that had to happen, something that would lead to the liberation of the Iraqi people and the start of a new era of governance for them. It wasn’t until about two years later, when I fully could understand what the devastating consequences of that invasion had been, that I knew the war was a catastrophe. I even voted for John Kerry in 2004, despite the fact that he had voted “yes” to the war, because I believed him when he said he regretted that decision. The GOP called it flip-flopping. I called it evolution.
Hillary has also evolved on gay marriage and gay rights, something that people are also hammering her for. You know who also evolved on gay rights and gay marriage? President Barack Obama and Vice President Joe Biden. When they evolved, we applauded. When Hillary evolved, we accused her of flip-flopping. What’s the difference here? And this is coming from someone who A) supported our invasion of Iraq at first and B) was VERY conflicted about gay marriage until I went to an all-girls high school and met some of the most amazing people I’ve ever met, who happen to be gay, bisexual, queer, or trans, and who just wanted (and still want) visibility. It opened, and changed, my mind. Can’t Hillary change hers, provided it’s a changed mind that’s come after deliberation and careful thought, and a changed mind that leads to more progressive, liberal thinking?
Hillary isn’t perfect. Not by any means. I don’t like how ‘in’ she is with Wall Street. I want to know if she’ll rework our economic inequality the way Bernie promises he will.
And of course, HRC’s comments on Nancy Reagan being a pioneer for AIDS research made me hugely angry, as someone who studied the 80s and the beginning of the AIDS epidemic in high school and college and who knew about the Reagans and their profound ignorance of the more than 500,000 people who died of the disease prior to their mentioning of it. But I’d like to think this misstep was like when I, a normal human, might say something on Twitter or Facebook that’s hugely inaccurate (like a normal human would do) and then later on go, “Oh my God, that was so dumb. I need to make up for that.” Hillary’s subsequent long-form apology on Medium was the first and only time a presidential candidate has brought up pre-exposure prophylaxis, or PrEP, which is a medication taken by people with high risks of developing HIV (think of it like pre-intercourse birth control pill, but for HIV prevention). She also proceeded to roll out the most comprehensive plan for attacking HIV and AIDS of the 2016 Presidential Campaign. Bernie Sanders followed shortly after. This would not have happened if not for that (admittedly egregious) statement about Nancy Reagan. Was she wrong? Yes. Do I forgive her? Yes.
I truly believe it is the way we make our choices and the way we progress after our choices that make us human. Do we want to be like Donald Trump, who fully commits to his language regardless of consequence? Or do we want to be like Hillary, who makes mistakes but believes in those mistakes, and then later, with knowledge and some hindsight, realizes that those decisions were indeed mistakes? I acknowledge Hillary has made some massive screw-ups. And I don’t think she’s a natural politician. I think she makes mistakes because she questions herself and blurts things out. But the difference between Hillary and Bernie is that Bernie is made out to be a demigod of the “right decisions,” someone with no skeletons in his closet. Hillary’s skeletons are constantly taken out, examined, excoriated, and thrown in her face. In the most recent debate, Hillary was asked why the American public should trust her. Bernie was not asked those questions. Granted, Hillary’s past decisions might put these questions as a necessary thing in a debate. But Bernie voted on sending money for defense into Iraq. Bernie voted against the Brady Bill several times. These things are never brought up, and when they are, they are skimmed over. Shouldn’t Bernie be hammered on these questionable decisions as much as Hillary is? That, to me, speaks to the public’s perception of Hillary as a woman not to be trusted. Because we are feeding that line of thought to the American public.
When I explained this to that friend of mine, his response was simply, “Well, I was against the war in Iraq since the beginning.” Well, congratulations on your foresight. That just makes me feel like a dick.
Maybe other people have progressed in their thinking. Isn’t it better to have someone like HRC, who has evolved positively, than someone like Mitt Romney, who started out pro-gay and pro-choice and has now walked back into the dark side of prejudice?
Hillary also speaks to my frame of mind about how we attack political change. Bernie Sanders has absolutely wonderful, world-changing ideas. And yes, for some of these ideas, he has pretty solid plans of how to go about doing it. But Bernie would be getting elected into a position that faces a GOP-throttled Congress, eagerly willing to hammer down any policy he might propose. Obama, who tried so hard to compromise for the first four years (and two years into his second term), found all of his policies rejected by the congressional floor. Do you think Bernie, who plans to charge in there like a bull in a china shop, will get anything done? We can’t afford to have someone in charge who wants to light a torch to the entire democratic process. I would prefer someone in charge who knows the ropes, who has been in the system, and who wants to dismantle a brick at a time. It’s like that famous saying “How do you eat an elephant? Piece by piece.”
Also if you look at the empirical data, Hillary is beating all other candidates by half a million votes. So there’s that. I trust the data.
So back to my point about Facebook. I tried to make these political conversations happen. I would calmly and respectfully play Devil’s Advocate with friends, to see what was happening in their minds about their vote, and when those conversations were brought to me, I tried to engage thoughtfully. I also tried to listen as much as possible to people with differing opinions than me, because that’s how true discussion happens. I had passionate conversations with friends about what mattered to them in their voting process – a friend of mine, who is deeply concerned about immigration and deportation (especially with the Latino/Latina population) forced me to consider that when it comes to voting, some things might matter more to me than other things. He was right, and despite the difficulty of that realization, I left that conversation a more evolved voter.
These wonderful conversations aside, I found myself feeling attacked nearly everywhere else, by people who kept feeling like they had to have the last word. I had empirical data and a lot of research on my side, so I thought that would be enough. But on the whole I felt attacked and small. I don’t think this is because I’m a woman. I think it’s because people on the Internet feel entitled to just scream at each other. And when it’s liberals doing the screaming? Woof. Is it possible, I wonder, to disagree with someone on the Internet and not be a jerk about it? I’m not sure. I try not to be.
The last straw came when I tried to politely ask some questions on a friend’s Facebook post about Hillary Clinton, which I thought was slightly one-sided. I hoped it would lead to a good discussion. He did not respond to my comment, but one of his friends – someone I didn’t know – did. He proceeded to scream at me for about four paragraphs. This is someone I didn’t know from Adam, and he thought it was perfectly all right to just scream at me, with all caps, rather than try to disagree with me respectfully. Now, as a normal human, I don’t necessarily like to be screamed at, and I don’t believe you can change anyone’s mind by just screaming. So I wrote back I’m not going to respond to someone just screaming at me. His response? Take your ball and go home.
In an instant, I felt very small, and like everything I had researched didn’t matter. I was just a dumb girl on the Internet, feeling the full weight of a misogynist aggression by someone I didn’t know. And I’m not afraid to admit that I cried, right there, in the gym locker room, hoping desperately someone wouldn’t come in and notice.
That’s when I realized I had had enough.
I was confident in my vote. I had empirical data and tons of research to inform me that I, myself, was making the right vote for MYSELF. Why did I feel the need to convince people, total strangers (many of them men), who were going to slam me over the coals? I give in. So I made a brief announcement on my Facebook that I was deleting it for a while.
The response was overwhelming, and all of it was positive. People I hadn’t heard from in a very long time were writing things like “You inspire me,” “You’re so passionate but also very well-read,” and “You and I may not agree, but I always look forward to what you have to say because it’s clear you do so much research.” And then I knew that it was all going to be okay.
It’s better to internalize someone’s point of view, to really sit with it and see where they’re coming from, than just screaming at them. And I hope, at the end of all of this, we can once again see who the real enemy is – lack of progressivism and true vision, and a lack of human and civil rights for all. May we elect someone who is rigorously detailed, rigorously defending of human and civil rights, but also someone who makes mistakes and owns up to those mistakes. Because that, to me, is what being human is.