I have been talking (ranting) a bit lately about my disdain for political candidates and their supporters who would reduce LGBT equality to a political issue that can be debated. After observing emotions beginning to run high, a friend posted a link to my Facebook wall to an article in the New York Times about emotions running high when discussing politics online. Here’s my response:
This article talks about the good ol’ days when people had discussions in person, yet it fails to mention that in those situations we can choose which conversations we partake in and which we remove ourselves from. In the days of Facebook we don’t always get to make that decision before the conversation starts (as would be the case in avoiding talking politics with someone we disagree with), as people tend to just interject whether or not it’s welcome. I don’t spend time trolling the pages or picking fights with people or friends I disagree with, and I don’t interject on my friends’ pages to spark debates (the same way I wouldn’t interrupt a conversation in person). Rather, I ignore those conversations all together and I expect those who disagree with me to do the same. When they don’t, when they insist on interjecting rather than ignoring, that’s when the blood begins to boil–not because they disagree, but because it’s disrespectful.
This article rightly states that LGBT equality is a highly personal and emotional issue, and it does accelerate quickly when people have constant access to social media. It doesn’t matter where it happens: debating the relative importance of equality is a non-starter for me. I cannot, in good conscience, consider someone who views my equality a lesser political issue as a true friend, yet I honestly have no issue when they keep those views to themselves in my presence. However, someone who brings those ideas disrespectfully to my face can expect our friendship to cease, online or in person. (We get wrapped around the axle with the idea of “online friends”–all the term means to me is people I am interested in communicating with online. Losing interest in communicating with someone doesn’t have to be an emotional event, it’s just the honest truth.)
In reality, though, it has nothing to do with Facebook. If people have these discussions with me in person I have the same reaction. By now it’s clear I won’t vote for Mitt Romney, but I don’t particularly care if people out there will. This is not to say, however, that I think being a supporter of a political candidate defines a person. People are defined, at least in part, by their values and beliefs. If their values place tax policies and government spending above civil equality and basic human rights, that’s fine–but it definitely raises some concerns for me.
I can get along with anyone, regardless of their choice in an election. I believe people have a right to think whatever they want, and that everyone should vote their conscience. I do, however, question how close friendship can be when financial policy outweighs civil equality on election day. When discussing my equality as a gay American, one either believes in my equality or one doesn’t. Sadly, in this presidential election, one candidate favors expanding LGBT rights towards full equality, and the other favors restricting them even more than they are now. While I am extremely tolerant of differing views on most issues, this isn’t one that gets much leeway with me. When it comes to discussing issues online or in person, I will inform and engage in civil conversation. It won’t ever come to blows or personal attacks if I have anything to do with it, but I will walk away or do what needs to be done to prevent such discourse from devolving.