Something For My IndyCar Friends To Ponder

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Two weeks from tomorrow, those of us that live in the US will be going to the polls to elect our new President. It can’t come soon enough.

Normally, I actually enjoy presidential politics and have very staunch political views. I simply choose not to share them here on this site or on social media. What’s the point?

First of all, would anyone really care? This is a site where I write about the Verizon IndyCar Series. For whatever reason, some people seem to care about what I have to say about IndyCar – or else they like to come here to argue with me or those that comment here. They don’t come here to discuss politics. There is no shortage of websites where you can get a much more informed political opinion than mine.

Second; I feel that my political views are no one else’s business. There is the time-tested adage that one should never discuss sex, religion or politics. None of these things are anyone else’s business.

Quite honestly, hearing someone talk about their sex life is, at best, awkward and usually borderline creepy. It’s even worse when they feel the need to grope their significant-other in front of you. Whatever they do behind closed doors is their own business. But when they decide to flaunt their creepiness, that’s when I start looking for the exits. That’s one reason why I choose not to write about my sex life here. The other reason is that Susan would hunt me down and kill me if I did.

Religion is the same way. I have strong-held religious beliefs. You may not know it by my lack of regular attendance every Sunday morning, but I have firm religious convictions. But that doesn’t mean that I approve of those that have to flaunt their religious beliefs in my face. I can’t help but roll my eyes whenever an athlete has to start off every interview by thanking God for allowing his or her team to win. Does that mean God wanted the other team to lose?

I squirm with uneasiness when someone works religion into an everyday conversation. At work a couple of weeks ago, a few of us were having coffee in the break room. I told of some bizarre dream I had the night before, where I had been thrown out of an upside-down roller-coaster but somehow survived. Out of nowhere, one co-worker said “You know, God speaks to us through our dreams”. Suddenly, a lively break room conversation turned silent. None of us knew how to respond to that. Things suddenly turned awkward and we went back to work.

While sex and religion will make a conversation turn awkward, politics has the opposite effect. It inflames and antagonizes people.

That leads me to the third reason I don’t discuss politics here. I have a website that I want people to visit and enjoy. Why would I want to alienate at least half of my readers simply because I support a candidate that they do not? People come here to escape their everyday grind and engage in or read a discussion that (usually) pertains to IndyCar.

I get irritated when I tune into Sunday Night Football to enjoy a game, only to have to endure Bob Costas bloviating about social issues. If I want that, I’ll watch Meet the Press, not Sunday Night Football. If Kevin Lee started spouting off about his views on Syrian refugees on Trackside, I seriously doubt that I would continue listening.

While I usually enjoy presidential politics, this election year has not been enjoyable. In fact, this election year has been going on for a year and a half, and it hasn’t been pretty. But it has been exceptionally ugly on social media, the place where I get to interact with so many IndyCar folks for eleven months out of the year.

I would guess that at least a third of my Facebook “friends” are people I have met through racing and only get to see during the month of May. Some I know so casually, that they have to tell me who they are when they see me in May. Others, I’ve gotten to know very well. They are either fellow bloggers or other media types, work in racing in some capacity or are simply fans that I’ve built relationships with.

But those relationships are getting tested as this election races towards its conclusion. Regardless of who I am voting for, supporters of both parties are guilty of what I’ve found the most disheartening about this process.

As I’ve proven here over the years, I don’t get my feelings hurt when readers disagree with me. I am pretty thick-skinned. Many times, I’ll meet people that tell me they certainly don’t agree with everything I say, but they appreciate the fact that I present facts in a reasonable manner and I don’t resort to name calling.

I don’t expect anyone to agree with everything I say. That would be a little odd. I have my ingrained opinions on several IndyCar issues such as canopies on open-cockpit race cars that I have made very clear. There are regular readers here who vehemently disagree with me on this subject – some whom I consider friends. But we both present our cases and we ultimately agree to disagree and move on. However, if the discussions devolved into them labeling me as retarded, mindless or unable to think for myself – I don’t think our friendship would continue on the same level, if at all.

For the past several months, I have seen political rants from people I once called friends. It doesn’t bother me in the least that they see things differently than I do. If these folks had kept with the issues and facts, I would still consider them friends today and after the election. But they have chosen to use a broad brush to paint everyone who is supporting the candidate I will be voting for as stupid, uneducated, half-witted, redneck and toothless. And those are some of the nicer comments. They will share articles and make comments regarding the followers of said candidate as if we were unfit to be called Americans or even walk the planet. A couple of weeks ago, I saw someone say that anyone stupid enough to support my candidate did not even deserve a voice and should not be allowed to be heard. Now, that’s civility.

They post their daily political rants as if they honestly think that anyone is going to change their mind from a friend’s Facebook post. They will share some crazy article from an obscure website that claims to have substantiated proof that my candidate actually came from another planet or something as equally credible. And yes, I fully acknowledge that there are just as many from my side doing the exact same thing.

But it’s the relentless hate that I’ll remember from this election – not from the candidates – but from my so-called friends that have been spewing venom for months and lumping me with every cretin on earth, simply because I commit the mortal sin of disagreeing with their side.

I enjoy a spirited political debate with friends on issues. My One Take Only cohort and good friend John McLallen and I are about as far apart as we could be politically. We can argue political issues all day, but can open up a couple of beers afterward and forget we ever disagreed. But if he were to ever call me uneducated and toothless for voting for my candidate – we would have big problems. Usually, name calling is a result of not having anything substantial to say to support your argument. It never ends well.

I expected the type of behavior we’ve seen from both candidates in this campaign. Unfortunately, I don’t think it will get any better in the future. With Facebook, Twitter and You Tube, there is an endless supply of soundbites available. Future campaigns will abandon their former domains of newspapers and the nightly news. The new campaign battles will be waged on social media. In a few years, presidential campaigns will not bear any resemblance to what we grew up with. Views on issues will not be near as important as who can deliver the best zinger on Twitter. This year’s campaign is just a sneak preview of what is to come.

But what I didn’t expect from this campaign was the endless barrage of personal insults from friends I used to respect. Their barbs are intended to blanket any supporter of any candidate other than their own. Many of them don’t even know I’ve been insulted because I’ve stayed silent and not engaged on social media. I posted something similar to this a couple of weeks ago on Facebook. Ironically, one of those I was talking about commented how much they agreed with me and how hate-filled things had gotten. An hour later, that same person posted another hate-filled rant. Interesting.

I would like to think that I’m a big enough person to forgive and forget what has been said about me, simply because I support a candidate that they don’t like. It’s nice to think that, but I’m not sure I am. It’s not one of my best qualities, but I tend to hold grudges. Once someone has crossed a line with me, it’s hard for them to go back. So, whichever way you are voting – it may be a good idea to keep your thoughts and opinions to yourself on social media. Discussing issues is one thing, taking it to a personal level is another. You never know who you are going to offend. And if you do feel the need to speak for your candidate, keep it to the issues and leave the mudslinging to the candidates themselves.

This isn’t about me. Most people I know on social media couldn’t care less if I’m offended, and that’s fine. I’m someone they see a couple of times a year. When it gets down to it, I’m not very high on the list of people they want to impress. But how many of their true friends that vote differently from them are offended and stay silent, like me? Those are the ones that they may need to mend fences with after the election. For their sake, let’s hope the bridge isn’t too badly scorched.

So to my friends who seem to enjoy their freedom of speech, remember that that right only protects you from being killed or thrown in jail for speaking your mind. It doesn’t guarantee that you will still be liked by others. Time heals everything. It’s a good thing that there will be six months between election night and the beginning of the month of May, when I will see most of these folks for the first time. I’m hoping I can cool off by then and forgive the slurs my “friends” have used to offend me while lumping me together with those they say they despise, whether they know it or not. I’m hoping I can be the better man.

George Phillips

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19 Responses to “Something For My IndyCar Friends To Ponder”

  1. Your site is definitely not for political mudslinging and name calling!

    It’s for starting arguements between Foyt vs Andretti! 😉

  2. as soon to be outgoing Texas coach Charlie Strong said “social media is the downfall of society.” Not sure what happened to civility but it’s demise surely began with the advent of anonymous comments on the internet. and the ability to politely disagree has gone the way of cursive writing, truant officers and rotary dial phones. all we can do as individuals is forgive the excesses of others and try to remember the rules of interacting in society that our parents taught us apply to both electronic communication and everyday life and set examples by our own behavior.

  3. The classic example is James Stewart and Henry Fonda. They were great friends, but were as different politically as you could get. In fact Fonda’s kids were estranged from their father, in part because they were angry he was friends with that “Stewart” guy.

    We see this because if you attack your opponents personally, then you don’t have to justify your own positions. Boy are we seeing it in this election, but its been going on longer than that.

    We are probably seeing the results of the theories of Saul Alinsky in his rules for radicals. See if this looks familiar to what is going on today:

    * RULE 5: “Ridicule is man’s most potent weapon.” There is no defense. It’s irrational. It’s infuriating. It also works as a key pressure point to force the enemy into concessions

    RULE 12: Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it, and polarize it.” Cut off the support network and isolate the target from sympathy. Go after people and not institutions; people hurt faster than institutions.

    I think we all appreciate your approach to your website. Where the biggest issue is oval vs road course, or aero kits vs additional engine manufacturers. But I understand your frustration.

    When attacked by people like this, defending yourself is specious. Hit them right back with the facts and the truth. It will probably just get you another insult since they can’t defend their thoughts (if they have even really thought about it.) But just maybe they might think about their behavior and their politics sometime later.

  4. Doug Gardner Says:

    it has gotten terrible. The caustic banter has risen to an all time high. it is fine to have opposing opinions. What seems to have changed, especially in politics is people(and politicins) at all levels forget that we are all living in the same country, state, and community. When all is said and done we have to accept the results and work together for the good of all. It has become a “us vs them” society and no compromise is the way of business now. Thus, gridlock and nothing gets done.

  5. Edgar Emmitt Says:

    Didn’t we realize long ago Bob Costas loves to hear himself talk?

  6. Thank you George for staying on topic on your blog throughout the ongoing period of political campaigning by professionals that is for some part also being spread around the web by polarized volunteers.

    I also like the fact that you are not a missionary.

    Personally, I feel it’s rather odd that political parties under this constitution approve of netiquette being disturbed for their own benefit, as that would be the online equivalent of “disturbing the peace” in the offline world. But maybe, their stance is that their followers can flame as much as they want online as long as they stay peaceful offline. I can only guess on that matter because I also largely keep my political views to myself, and don’t want to discuss them anywhere near as much as my ex-girlfriend did, but I digress.

    I shall now save your posting to check back in a few years time. Here’s hoping the internet will still be a nice place. Otherwise, the slurs and sh*tstorms you predict would be well capable of influencing droves of users to cancel their F*c*book and other social media subscriptions out of wanting to stay sane. It’s a rather bleak perspective that you predict for the internet as a method of communication and getting to know new people.

  7. I agree with redcar, I believe social media is a cesspool. I liked reading your blog today George, I felt partially re-grounded after reading it. The insanity taking place of the last year and a half has left me shell shocked. I think the concept of twitter as an advance in communication and a spin- off of Facebook is technologiclly impressive, but to me that is about as far as it goes. Unfortunately I am showing my age here but I am becoming more and more irritated with it (as many in my age group absolutely love social media) but everyone has their limits, and social media is mine. I understand the evolving news source potential social media has shown me that people in general (not everyone) can’t handle it and have no boundaries. Respect for others and social grace- gone all because people can hide behind their electronic devices as restraint evaporates. If no limits are put on people, what are they going to do? Abuse it.

    My plea to IndyCar and all fans: please, please do not let politics spill over into the sport that we have hung on to through thick and thin.

  8. Even though I hold VERY strong positions politically (e.g., opposite of L in RLL Racing Team) I respect those who stay away from it. I only talk with family members who agree with me and my wife (and she’s about to kick me out until Nov. 9th). Even a off-handed reference can rub someone (or me) the wrong way. Same with religion (and I’m deeply involved w/ my church), and like you George, I get queasy about religion talk in public. Indy Car drivers are exemplars of staying away from politics and social issues of the day. It’s impossible to detect where any one of the drivers stands on social and political issues and it’s refreshing. I can get my political fix from the people who specialize in this.

    All I hope for is peace and prosperity for everyone, here and abroad, and if this happens with the candidate I oppose, I’ll be happy. And I hope the heated rhetoric subsides and is all forgotten by start of Indy season next year.

    Btw, too bad all politicians and world leaders couldn’t get along with each other like Helio, Hinch, Simon, Mikhail, Conor, et. al.!

  9. billytheskink Says:

    I would go as far as saying that this election has gotten almost as nasty as the Split…

    *turns around and sprints for the door*

  10. I agree with Redcar. This may be the first presidential election that has taken place within the 24/7 news cycle of the internet and social media and it has not been pretty. I do have a Facebook page (no political stuff will ever appear there) and a Tracfone. That will pretty much tell you what I think of social media.

    Since we are a bit off topic from racing today, allow me to congratulate the Cubbies. My uncle in central Indiana always listened to his Cubbies while driving his tractor. He always, always, truly believed that “this will be their year”. I think that the Cubbies finally getting back to the World Series is good for the people of Chicago who otherwise have to face the unrelenting violence in their streets and the lack thereof in the Bears defense.

    • Ron, your Chicago analogy is PRICELESS! As a lifelong Bears and Cubs fan, I’ve had my share of teams that SUCK. At least the Cubs followed their leader’s missive, “Try not to suck!” as for the Bears, well, “Wait til next decade.”

      • Thank you. I am from Wisconsin, so you can guess where my loyalties lie for sports teams. Despite that, I have always liked the Cubs. Da Bears, not so much!

  11. I have always appreciated that we can come here as race fans and discuss racing, no matter our religion, politics or gender. This is the way I hope our world can mirror in the future. I do not like or approve of how this campaign has devolved into such viciousness. We have lost track of the real issues facing the country.

    So, George, thanks for offering us a sane refuge for the ugliness.

    And congrats to the Cubs, Ron, from a lifelong Dodger fan.

  12. Look, I may have said some things here and there about the election that may have been polarizing, and maybe even upsetting. But, I assure you, my comments were based upon the fact that I’ve been exposed to and been a fan of one candidate for over 25 years now, and have not had the same amount of history with the other. But now that my candidate is no longer viable, I am ready to turn my focus from supporting Vanilla Ice and throwing the weight of my efforts behind getting James Hinchcliffe elected as king of Dancing With the Stars. I apologize to anybody that I may have offended by saying that my guy is clearly the better rapper/dancer/entertainer (even though I still believe I was right).

    Oh, wait. Were you talking about some other election? Yeah, I haven’t been paying any attention to that one. “Focus on what’s important”, I always say.

  13. Lynn Weinberg Says:

    When I read this post, I was nodding my head yes, and mentally clapping because someone else is thinking the same as me. I answered the poll question saying “it will be hard to patch up some friendships after the things that have been said.” When I answered that way, I thought I would be in the minority. Wow, was I shocked and saddened to learn that 56 people answered the same as me!

    Unfortunately, this is happening within my family. The matriarch of our family is a lovely 88 year old woman who will welcome anyone into her family, regardless of their values, political beliefs, race, religion or sexual preference. Last week, she was beside herself trying to understand how her ENTIRE family got into such a huge argument on “The Facebook.” Another aunt survived the Holocaust after being in a Concentration Camp, and now she has to deal with this nonsense? Facebook? The cousins had a “knock-down, drag-out” on Facebook? Please. Just. Stop.

    We’re having separate Thanksgiving dinners this year because my 63 year old cousin thought it was a great idea to tell his 1,400 FB friends in a long post, about how certain people in his family wouldn’t be family anymore if they vote for a particular candidate.

    Please think about what you’re saying on social media, to anyone. I’m still trying to wrap my mind around what happened in the family with just a few keystrokes by people. We crossed lines that we can NEVER come back from. All because of a 4 paragraph FB post and the 172 comments that were made because of that one post.

  14. The polarization of national politics in our country is alarming. I differ from my family in my political views and yet my dad and I can engage in thoughtful political discourse and respect one and other’s differing views. Unfortunately, my brothers subscribe to the “you’re either with us or against us” narrative that has become far too commonplace in today’s society. This approach of taking political views so personally not only affects friendships, it can even drive an unnecessary wedge among family members. Ridiculous!

  15. Sport should help us to be friends. Yes there are rivalries and controversy, but it’s just a game meant to let us enjoy for a while.

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