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 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.