The Most Important Lesson This Election Year

I worked for Borders in 2004 during the Bush vs Kerry presidential election. While most of our customers were polite, some took the election extremely seriously. We were sold out of a particularly incendiary title, and I had a customer get in my face to tell me he did not believe we were sold out, he believed our bookstore was “too <expletive deleted> liberal to carry it.” A coworker jumped in at that point and assured the angry man that we had cash registers, he had cash, and we would have been happy to accommodate him if we only had the title in stock.

This story has always been one of my favorite “look at the weirdo customers” retail stories, but lately it seems like everyone is on the same short fuse as my angry customer. Facebook is just loaded with righteous politicking, and I know of a few friends who have said they plan on removing anyone from their Facebook news stream who posts political commentary different from their own. That’s without getting into the many, many political billboards we saw last weekend driving through swing state Ohio. A few years ago, angry book man was an outlier, but now it seems we are all angry … at Congress, at the candidates, and at each other.

So when one of my friends posted a link to this post on Ramble Ramble, I felt both sad and relieved-at least I am not alone in feeling this way:

As the election gets nearer, and the tempers get shorter, and the mud gets fling-ier, I want you to remember some things, please:

When you post on Facebook that someone is “Too stupid to breathe…” if they vote for X candidate–you could be talking about me.

When you write in your email that someone who votes for Y candidate is “UnAmerican”–you could be talking about me.

When you say that someone who believes that Z candidate has better policies should “be taken out back and shot”–you could be talking about me.

When you say that you hope everyone who votes for XYZ candidate “is rounded up” before the election–you could be talking about ME.

When you say/post/share ugly words, thoughts or pictures about people on the other side to support your political position–you could be talking about ME.

About ME, or someone like me that you know. Not just a random “them.” But someone you like, or love. Someone you may have known your whole life. Someone you may think is intelligent, articulate, well-spoken. Someone you may think is caring, kind, giving.

There is a PERSON behind the things you are saying. When you say that all liberals, or all conservatives…when you say that all Democrats or all Republicans…when you say that ALL of any group is/says/does/thinks/behaves/believes/hates/loves/etc., you are saying that about real people. Honest to goodness, flesh and blood people. Not just ideologies. Not just platforms. Not just issues. Not just politicians. Your friends. Your family. Your neighbors. Your coworkers.

I feel as though that entire quote needs to run along the bottom of every newscast and debate., and in the margins of every newspaper in America. I have my strong beliefs, as do others. But on November 7th, we all still live in America. We can joke about moving away, but the truth is we all have to live with the winner of this election. More importantly, we all have to live with each other. Eventually, there will be other things on television besides debates and political coverage. We will go from candidate ads to Christmas ones. But we still need to face each other, whether it is on Facebook or in person.

More importantly, we need to remember that candidates will rise and fall, but our family and friends are still going to be there … even if they do have the audacity to support the other guy!


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