I just had an epiphany.
As anyone who reads my blog or follows me on Facebook or Twitter already knows, I’m a huge not-fan of the Republican Party (or perhaps the Democrats should vote to rename them the Republican Fascist Party…but no, that’d be infantile), and a ginormous not-fan of the Bush administration in general. And I don’t really pull my punches.
Recently, it seems I scared a pair of “friends” off with my scary, scary liberalism. This was a couple who used to live nearby who became friends with me and my then-wife. When they lived here, I used to have long spirited discussions about politics with the husband, because they were extremely conservative. Then they moved away, and except for sporadic contact like Christmas cards, we weren’t really part of each others’ lives.
Facebook brought us back together, as it has so many other relationships, for good or ill. Both of them became my Facebook buddies. Jokes were posted to walls, even political teasing. Then, at some point, they both unfriended me, I’m told because of my political comments.
Well, that’s pretty chickenshit. Cutting yourself off from a friend just because you fear other opinions, or because you feel the need to live in a safe little envelope of homogeneity, is not the stuff of heroes. It’s also not the stuff of friends, real friends, friends worth having, so I don’t feel all that impoverished over their departure.
I try hard to keep an open mind, and to respect other people, even if I don’t actually respect their opinions. This became increasingly difficult during the Bush years because of the relentless aggressive demonization of dissenting views by the right, so that at times it did seem almost impossible to have a calm discussion with the other side (see also: Hannity, Sean and O’Reilly, Bill), but I gritted my teeth and made the effort to not judge people themselves by their political stances.
It can be hard.
In the past week, a tossed off status message of mine on Facebook (“I’m quickly becoming a Jesse Ventura fan,” because Ventura has been touring TV shows chewing up right wing propagandists like Hannity on the subject of torture) resulted in a short flurry of political commentary.
At one point, a friend posted the question, “Are there any conservatives you like?” and I replied “I like you,” because even though she and I hadn’t had any political discussion, I knew she was conservative from having read her Facebook page. But I like her a great deal, and she’s not my only conservative friend.
Then, another friend (in the Facebook sense) jumped in to defend Bush with this well-reasoned comment:
Oh, Gosh … I guess you both forgot that you are still alive! We were not attacked again and our defenses were not weakened … but, I’m sure all of that will change shortly.
Because, of course, George W. Bush kept us safe and Obama’s going to arm all our troops with that bacon and wire assault rifle that’s recently become an Internet meme and not give them body armor. No, wait. That part was Bush.
The comment annoyed me, and I have to admit I felt the impulse to unfriend this woman. Of course, doing so because someone spoke their mind is very much against my principles, because I want my page to be a free speech zone, so I didn’t.
This woman makes book trailers, which are like movie previews, only for books. I assumed when she befriended me that she did so because it was a marketing move, that she was finding authors on Facebook in the hopes of drumming up business. And recent posts of hers seemed to indicate that, indeed, that was her aim. The extent of personal contact I’ve had with her was I accepted her as a Facebook friend, and a while later she popped in and made her comment about how I should be happy I’m still alive because of George W. Bush (actually, I’m happy that I’m alive in spite of George W. Bush, unlike hundreds of thousands who are not so lucky).
Then, today, she posted the image of a shrieking blonde woman with the caption “OMG! Just shut up, Obama!” Tee hee. Mind you, she posted this not on my wall, but on hers. Nonetheless, I again felt the impulse to kick her off my friends list. Again, I did not.
But it did annoy me, not simply because of our clear difference politically, but because she had opened a channel of communication between us for business purposes, but was now using it to make political commentary I disagree with. That seemed counter to her business goal, because irritating people isn’t generally the way to get them to hire you.
Impulsively, I posted to her wall, basically saying that. Of course it wasn’t well received, and of course I was stepping into an envelope my old “friends” would have been toasty comfy inside, and I should’ve just realized that would be the case and not bothered.
But after I posted, I was musing on the situation. I’m in the market, actually, to do a book trailer. I’d even looked over this woman’s site, watched some of her work, and had planned to talk to her about the possibility of working with her on it. Now I knew I wouldn’t bother.
Am I that guy? The guy who won’t do business with someone just because I disagree with them on political issues? Generally, no. Usually, I don’t care what the political opinions are of the people I do business with. I’d let a mechanic work on my truck even if he had a poster of Bush with that “Mission Accomplished” banner hanging in the garage. I’ll watch Tom Selleck, Bruce Willis, or Robert Duvall in movies without compunction. (Actually, let’s strike Bruce Willis from that list, because he vocally left the party a while back out of disgust at what it’s become). I don’t have a litmus test people must pass to get my patronage, nor my friendship.
So why, over these two rather insignificant Facebook encounters, had I firmly decided not to use her services?
Then, the epiphany: because she hadn’t given me any reason to like her, and now was giving me reason not to.
She approached me looking for business, then showed me absolutely nothing on the personal level to humanize her to me or to give me even the slightest positive feeling toward her, and then started making her political cracks. Had she made herself a person, at any point, in some way beyond the commercial before that, the cracks would have been just fine. People should express themselves. But without that context, she was just an antagonist, using that channel of communication I’d allowed to open at her request.
It’s like she knocked at my door, handed me a brochure for her business, then slandered my Obama bumper sticker. That’s no way to get a customer.