A Very Specific Divide
There’s a lot of Republicans using their Twitter platforms and their interview times on video and their voices in news articles to request/demand unity from the country. And I get that – I do – I don’t normally vocally denounce that after a national crisis or an election. It sometimes makes me roll my eyes, but I don’t use my own platform to say: BULLSHIT.
But this time, I’m calling BULLSHIT. Here’s the thing. This divide that birthed that mob was fostered and fueled by those same voices using those same platforms to enrage their base with claims of voter fraud and theft of elections. Dozens of cases were brought before courts, many ruled on by Conservative judges, and were thrown out or denied. And yet, a lot of these voices still kept using the phrase, “The election was stolen,” or more subtly saying things like, “We just want to make sure everything is fair,” even after the courts all said: IT IS FAIR.
So when you create the divide, YOU are in charge of healing it. If you honestly want to heal then you need to start by using that platform, that voice, to speak LOUDLY and SURELY to your constituents and say: Biden won this election FAIR and SQUARE. You can maintain faith in the election process as it yielded honest results thanks to the hard world of all of the people – Republicans and Democrats – involved from the poll workers to the electoral voters.
Until they say that – I don’t want to hear their calls for unity. Let your constituents know that these Republicans, including Trump, intentionally lied and promoted false conspiracies to use their emotions to their advantage. Then maybe request that try to forget all of that and be unified. But until you convince these radicalized Trump zealots that the Presidency rightfully belongs to Biden, there can be no healing. THEY FIND THE TRUTH TO BE DIVISIVE. How can we heal across a divide when one side of the bridge is built on lies?
A More General Divide
Now. There is a more “general” divide that people like to talk about between political ideologues, zealots, activists, and politicians. It’s this divide where people on one side simply can not be close to people on the other side of the Right/Left political spectrum. And that is another one we need to discuss, but I can only discuss that one seriously from my experience and point of view.
We often think of the Right/Left political spectrum. But there’s another one to consider in talks of division: There’s a spectrum of Types of Voters. There’s people who really don’t think about voting except for every 4 years and they don’t bury themselves in platforms and pundits, they kinda judge based on commercials but more often judge based on their gut feeling and the people around them. They might flip-flop around parties. They might some years just not bother voting if they can’t feel emotionally invested in either candidate. Sometimes they feel too separate from the system to feel like there’s any point.
Then, on the other side of the spectrum, there’s me. I obsess over politics and current events every day. So much so that I sometimes have to treat myself like an addict and take it away to sober up for a bit. I read summaries of proposed legislation, I contact my representatives, I listen several different news and politics podcasts, I read non-fictions about race and economy and gender and I study Progressive and Leftist platform proposals. I listen to academics talk about the faults of extraction capitalism and I read activists in the LGBTQIA community talk about the mental health of young people who are at risk based on harmful legislation. I worry about voter suppression and about mass incarceration. A solid majority of my heart and my brain and my soul goes to political issues. And I exist solidly on the left of the left of the left on the Right/Left spectrum.
So when you talk about the general political divide in this nation, in theory that divide exists between people who vote Republican and people who vote Democrat. (I do not ever call myself a Democrat, but I have never not voted Democrat.) But you also have to consider where each of those people fall on the spectrum of voters I described.
For this example consider ME on the “voted Democrat” side of this division and a staunch Pro-Lifer on the “voted Republican” side. We are both on the intense/severe end of these Types of Voters spectrum and so we eat, breathe, and live our politics. We carry signs to protest, we donate to political campaigns, we put stickers on our car and listen to activists tell us Next Steps for our political goals.
You can put us in a waiting room at a doctor’s office and we may chat about the fact that we’re both reading the same book. We may help each other if we notice one of us has dropped something. We may even donate to each other’s Go Fund Me when we’ve had a catastrophe.
But we will always keep up a wall between each other because our hearts are too invested in opposing sides of the same battle.
Now, if you take two people who are on the other end of the Types of Voters spectrum but who vote differently? They can probably be very close to each other because they don’t have to turn off a large part of their brain when chatting. They can create foundations for relationships without their politics ever entering the process.
But that’s not me or people like me. There will always be a divide between those of us who can’t turn off the political side of our brains. I honestly can not be around a Trump voter for too long without thinking about how he ended the Executive Orders Obama put into place to support Transgender people. I think about friends and family with Transgender children and how he took that from them.
Now…someone who is not as intense of a voter as me? Can turn that part off. Maybe that part actually needs to be turned on when it’s time to vote and otherwise stays off.
But not me. I can’t stop thinking about how mad I am that Pro-Lifers have made abortions almost impossible in many red states. I can’t stop thinking about mass incarceration and the support for drug testing the poor before giving them their benefits. I just can’t turn that off.
Does this make me part of the problem with “healing” that general divide. Yeah. I guess so. Which is why you won’t see me preaching about healing. My truth is that my end goal is to get people on the other side on my side. Yeah, that makes me divisive, but there’s nothing I will change about that. I will just try to be kind and understanding in my efforts.
Living Across That Divide
Now…what does this look like practically (I saved the hard pard for the end) when you are like me and you live in a Red State and you have Trump supporting family members?
It looks very painful.
First and foremost: I am never (rarely?) cruel to anyone in face to face interactions. I know people who are and I’m just not that type of person. I’m not going to call you a racist for voting for Trump. I’m not going to tell you that you must hate my son and people in his community if you voted for Trump.
And when we’re not together, I’m probably not thinking about your politics.
Now, it’s not so hard for me to socialize for short bursts of periodic time with people who I know vote Republican. So if life puts me in social situations with people who I know vote differently than me, I can be good for short bursts of time. And if I don’t know how you vote, I can be the same way. I actually enjoy small talk and so I have no problem listening to updates on your kid’s college career or your new cat or your camping trip. I have even been known to get quite close to someone whose politics are foreign to me.
(Truth: If I get close to you before I know your politics then part of me believes you are on my side because it’s easier on my heart that way.)
I call most of those “surface level” relationships and I can have those no problem with anyone in the moment. I have serious social anxiety but I like talking to people if they can get past my awkwardness.
But it will stay there permanently if I know your politics don’t align with mine. I won’t consider that person a close relationship because I can’t trust them to vote in the best interests of the people and policies that I spend almost all of my spare brain power thinking about.
The painful part comes in with people who I love and desperately want to be closer than surface level but every time I try I’m hurt by the constant reminders of their politics. And it’s a physical pain for me. Like, I grieve those relationships. I’ve had to learn to set boundaries because of politics in ways I never did before, because I realized that I had to protect myself and to QUIT TRYING TO BE CLOSE TO SOMEONE WHO IS SO DIFFERENT.
If you know this pain? Let’s talk. Because it is a hard one to talk about. If you don’t need to set boundaries to protect your political heart it seems ridiculous and inflammatory that some of us do. But if you know that pain I’m talking about? Then we need to talk because it is so fucking hard and it helps knowing others are struggling too.
Now, people who don’t live on the extreme end of Types of Voters can find common ground in other areas that can build the foundations of a strong and deep relationship. But I can not. My politics are too big a part of me. There is no relationship foundation without common politics because there’s no space to build if I simply try to avoid that.
After 2016 I slowly had to cut a lot of casual relationship ties because I learned my limits. People were open on Facebook celebrating Trump election and I immediately felt sick. I couldn’t socialize with people I knew voted for Trump for too long because I couldn’t turn off the political side of my brain for that long. So I had to make sure to limit those interactions which meant a lot of my casual acquaintances (because I do live in a red state) became more distant. I had to cut ties with family who I don’t have to see on a regular basis.
There was a time, during the Obama Era, when I could say, I can build relationships around having kids the same age, or interest in similar hobbies. But not any more. Someone who will vote against my daughter’s rights to make decisions about her body, does not deserve to see my updates about her life. I don’t want them to see the funny stories and cute pictures I post of her on Facebook if they would vote against her right to choose. I don’t want anyone to see into the life of my adult son if they vote against others in his community, if they don’t believe Trans Rights are Human Rights because as a gay man, he also fights for the rights of his Trans community. I don’t want you to know about my mental health struggles if you vote against universal healthcare.
Are people like me what fuels this divide? Definitely. I’m not denying that. I’m just explaining it. Do I have the luxury to only surround myself with Left-Leaning people? Not really. My Mom voted for Trump. A lot of Donnie’s family voted for Trump. We have to navigate this division constantly and while he’s not on the extreme end of “types of voters” as I am – it’s hard for him too.
But I will stay here. I will continue to try to fight for the things I believe. I’ll be 100% honest with you right now: To me, the best way to heal the divide is to get everyone on my side. So you won’t ever hear me talking about “healing across the divide” – at least not while I feel like so much is still at risk.