After a long week, Saturday morning we received a text that Pennsylvania had called the race for Joe Biden. We turned on the news. I cried in relief and smiled a lot, but as the day wore on a sinking feeling settled in my gut. The jumble of emotions reminded me that we all still have to live with each other. We have family, friends, and enemies who continue to disagree with us on a number of levels. We have similar grievances about the country but haven’t been able to come together on how to address them.
Saturday afternoon I supported my husband’s essay being posted on Facebook, which received mixed reactions. Reilly finally felt he was in a position to express his opinion. We spent the past four years discussing the DJT presidency and a lot of the damage that administration has caused. We both felt that DJT was not–by any measure–the best republican candidate. We assessed it against our own Christianity. We considered our disenchanted LDS LGBTQ+ friends, estranged from the Church and whose rights are being questioned. We considered our atheist and agnostic friends. I saw how disheartened many teacher friends were for the quality of American education; I took offense alongside the disabled community for brutal remarks directed toward people like my daughter. We stood by beneficiaries of the Affordable Care Act. We stood beside the prejudiced and injusticed. As an assault victim and a woman, I could see no way to support DJT. By extension he MARGINALIZED and OBJECTIFIED and DEMEANED…ME. And I was far from the only one. All these people were degraded and misunderstood. Dismissed. Reilly and I analyzed the actions of the administration as a whole and judged them as corrupt. (I mean, all presidencies are far from perfect, but the corruption from the past four years was on a much grander scale.) For the 2020 presidential election we weighed the options and determined the best choice was Joe Biden.
So of course I was pleased that our guy won, yet I felt uneasy about gloating. Reilly’s essay could have easily been perceived as gloating, kicking the opposition when they’re down. And I could see how it would be condescending in the middle of a defeat to hear, “You deserved so much better than DJT.” and “Please do better research.” I see that now. (Though he did warn of a patronizing tone.) In hindsight that has become much clearer, where two days ago people were telling me how to feel my own feelings. Which hurt my feelings. They had no idea how my heart was struggling with this concern, reconciling our victory with others’ downtroddenness and possibly losing friends. Which again: my fault. It’s almost always my fault.
For the record, I am not undermining any of the points of Reilly’s essay. That’s a solid essay. I’m trying to break down my own arrogance.
I think one of my big mistakes is assuming all my conservative friends come to all the same conclusions in all the same ways. This is just not true. It’s hypocritical of me to assume that. And this mistake umbrellas the major transgression of simply not asking people what they think. Out of all my conservative friends who could have read Reilly’s essay, one reached out to me privately and calmly and sincerely expressed how they felt misunderstood and marginalized. ONE. FRIEND. They didn’t counterattack; they extended grace. They provided names of credible conservative journalists. They said, “If you had asked, I would have given you a real answer.” They didn’t say, “I would have given you a reductive meme. Or commentary from Tucker Carlson.”
I don’t want to believe this friend is an exception. I really truly want to know if all my conservative friends feel this way. But I honestly believe that civil discourse on Facebook is a near-impossibility. For one, because I’m nervous about looking stupid, I always come across as superior and a know-it-all, and you may feel that I’ll shoot down anything you have to say, just to be contradictory. Please do not shy away: I am a bonafide dummy. I have not been ok for the past two days–angry at myself and guilt-crying–knowing I have hurt some of you. I hope we can both be fine accepting that we may not change each other’s minds, but I do want to understand you better.
Not only do I want to say I’m sorry, I want to go beyond lip service and ask for your thoughts. To share as much of your hearts as you are comfortable with. I want us to go beyond an intellectual exercise–and mere polemics–and into the nitty-gritty of our real, human, messy lives. Because Facebook is the perfect platform for being misunderstood, tomorrow (Tuesday 11/10) at noon MST I will be deactivating my account. Facebook Messenger will still be active, and you can reach me in other conventional ways: handwritten letter/phone/text/email/Google Chat/Zoom. I may not always respond quickly, because I want to be thoughtful and heart-centered, but I will respond. A few weeks ago a friend and I talked on the phone–you know, where we could hear each other’s voices on the things we doom-scroll 20 hours a day–for a whole hour! It was the most re-energizing thing! I’d love to do this with any of you.
For now, I’m going to think of questions to ask my friend. I look forward to all of us helping each other.