Within my circle of friends and the paths I frequent in daily life, I am most often with like political minds; it’s a comfort, but it also represents only a portion of my life. I have always loved knowing that my circle of friends goes far beyond this daily life and Facebook has made it possible to see and hear news of people I have known and loved since childhood. It is also where I am most often witnessing the divide that is splitting our country.
If I post something personal about my work or my children or dogs, many are there to like and cheer and I am glad to see them and respond in kind to their posts; but when I post something political, the numbers drop considerably. What does the silence mean? Perhaps it is an avoidance of conflict, (and I appreciate silence over rude attacks for sure) and yet, we live in a time where avoidance is dangerous; we cannot afford to pretend that this political chasm does not exist and is getting broader all the time. I, too, would prefer to look at photos of children and kittens and remain connected, yet, also feel compelled to speak, terrified by what is at stake if we ignore the seeds of hatred and violence that are being sewn as this administration attempts to play us all as fools, pitting us against one another as if we are all on some vapid television show, instead of living our lives and trying to preserve democracy so that our children (all children!) and our grandchildren (the very ones whose pictures we love to like) might have a better life.
Perhaps those who remain silent do so because they don’t want to be unfriended or unfollowed, and I get that, have been there, and yet, how do we bridge the differences with rational communication instead of spewing vitriol or hiding behind kittens and butterflies? We unfriend people because we find their beliefs offensive but what do we accomplish? What is the way out? How do we connect with people — these friends — we spent years of our lives with, sitting in school, in places of worship, laughing on the playgrounds, cheering at ballgames, dancing at the proms or whatever gatherings our small town allowed; they are our first friends and loves, the people who populate our childhood memories; they have attended funerals of our loved ones and congratulated us on the birth of children and grandchildren; they are our neighbors and have come to the aid of others in times of disasters in an area all but forgotten by much of the state, not to mention the country as in the aftermath of recent hurricanes.
There are pieces missing in this equation and it is driving me crazy and has been for over two years; I find it hard to simply dismiss people and close doors without a better understanding of why they are taking such a stand and/or taking no stand at all. In the past, it was possible to respect the work or career or heart of someone who held a much more conservative view and I am really missing those days; many would argue that that is what should make the two-party system work, a system of checks and balances. You could come to a political stalemate with someone but somehow agree to disagree and still remain connected because of your love for a particular community and the people who live there as well as respect for the constitution and the principles upon which this country was founded — the freedoms granted to all people. But these days, the bridge is washed out and I advocate loud and long that a BRIDGE is what is needed instead of the many walls that divide us.
During the 2016 election, I heard people say the following: I voted against Hillary. I voted with my middle finger. I did not vote. My question to those who said these things is AND what now? Would you (will you?) betray those whose rights and freedoms are threatened? friends of color or a different faith? those who bravely went out into the world to find their places in the LGBT community? Do you believe that it is OK to mock others? To grab women who don’t want to be grabbed? To make racist and misogynistic comments? Do you not believe the science of global warming? And if you are a woman, do you really not believe you are an equal? Do you really not believe in all that this country was founded upon? And what of the Christian ethics that get referred to? Where did compassion go? My understanding has always been that compassion was the very heart of what Jesus taught, but it seems to me that compassion is as lost to us in this administration as honesty, otherwise there would be a push to fully denounce hate crimes and to seek better gun control and to protect the environment for those generations to come. This is not an administration where you can afford to pick and choose based on one issue with the assurance that the structure of democracy will protect you. That structure is being threatened and the more division created among we the people, the greater the threat.
If people who cast that 2016 vote now have doubts about where this administration is going, please let them speak out and help build a bridge instead of a wall. That is my sincere hope and what I continue to come back to on these sad and sleepless nights. I keep hoping that some spark of honesty, compassion and goodness might catch and spread and save us before it’s too late.
Jill McCorkle is a Lumberton native and award-winning author.