I tried not to get sucked into the ever churning cesspool of endless social media tit -for- tat that goes on around election time. Over the last 8-years it seems to be constant. There doesn’t even seem to be a break long enough to celebrate our wins and grieve our losses.
Growing up in the Somerton section of Northeast Philadelphia, our house was the actual precinct polling place. A few days before the election our dining room furniture was moved out and the big gray voting machine was brought in. Folks started lining up an hour or so before the poles officially opened.
Election Day was exciting for me as far back as I can remember. The folks that lined up in the morning brought donuts and homemade coffee cakes. My mother borrowed a big coffee pot and kept it full throughout the morning.
I sat on the sofa or on the floor beside it as close to that machine as I could get, for as long as I could before my parents chased me out to play. When they did I would circle the block and sneak back in. I listened to every word of those voter’s conversations as they waited in line. They weren’t actually conversations they were more like arguments. Inside the house they never mentioned candidate’s names but I knew who their choice was by their argument.
I took in the way they were dressed. Some all decked out in red, white and blue outfits, hats and ties. Others would be in their Sunday best. They had to take their buttons off before they entered the house.
The younger women were passionate about social issues and I was impressed by many of them. I thought they were so smart. The men discussed taxes, debt and crime. I never got the impression any of the women were voting the way their husbands told them too, not even the older women.
At Saint Christopher’s Catholic School I was often in trouble around election time. The most memorable time was when I told the kids how Humphrey thought he was talking to a bunch of college students and spoke freely about how he thought young people were using their opposition to the war as escapism and ignoring domestic issues such as the Head Start Program, which he saved in a close senate vote. He was completely unaware there were several reporters in the room. That hot mike trick was popular even back then. I told the kids that year, that conversation was the reason he lost the election to Nixon.
On election- day that year the men and the women discussed his carelessness without mentioning his name in line.
The nuns demanded to know where I heard such nonsense and told me to stop. Those nuns increased my hunger for all things political and created a love in me for our American right to free speech. I do not think that was their intention.
The outside of our house on election-day was everything inside the house wasn’t. There were candidates running for local offices, signs, loud arguments and sometimes a reporter or two from opposing newspapers would show up. I loved watching those reporters do their job.
Outside my little ears heard things little ears shouldn’t have heard. Contentious, ugly elections are nothing new. Back then people gathered in living rooms, neighborhood bars and on street corners to argue the issues. Today the social conversations have been replaced by sound bites, talking points and memes on social media. It’s uglier because people feel empowered by anonymity. People don’t really express their own thoughts and opinions, instead they share others. Sometimes what is shared is true, sometimes it’s not. There will always be someone or many that will hate what you post. There are many that have no manners and even less compassion.
Women of all ages post all year about how we have to empower one another, be supportive and by example teach our young women that bullying has no place in this century. The right to choose is to be respected, cherished and protected unless you choose to be that other “C” word, a conservative woman.
I often think about how women have changed our world. The first thing that comes to mind is we give life to this planet. We are the fiercest of warriors against injustices of every kind against humans and animals. Women have united and forced research for breast cancer and an impressive list of other diseases. We have organized against rape, stalking, human trafficking and a whole host of other violent crimes.
Back in colonial times it was mainly the women that saw the injustice and educated slaves and their children. Women all over this world are risking their lives every day. Israeli and Palestinian women are vacationing together. They are protecting one another’s children. Muslim women are educating their daughters and each other.
This fills me with such inspiration and pride.
Women before us picketed long and hard to give us the right to vote and the right to choose yet when some women use that freedom of choice in a way others do not agree with, she is circled like prey. She is chastised. Her children are called names. They talk about her hair, her skin, her house and in my case my eyebrows? Nothing seems to be off limit.
Why do they do this? Why do they continue to practice gang like mentality and send bi-polar messages to all of our daughters?
Seriously my sisters we must all do better. We know we will never stop bullying with bullying. We cannot call ourselves kind if we are only kind to those who agree with us ALL the time. Kindness is an action. We must also educate ourselves on the art of dignified debate. We must learn to be okay with agreeing to disagree.
Although it’s heightened around elections the choice to be a conservative woman is never a popular or respected choice. For years I hid the fact that I was conservative. This year I chose to come out of my conservative closet. Most days lately I want to crawl back in there where it was safe and quiet.
I’ve been crushed emotionally by the brutal private and public messages I’ve received. People I thought were friends have banded together to ‘stalk’ my pages, discount my beliefs and tell me my sources are not credible.
For most of the year I’ve appreciated the passion of others. I find it exciting. I respect my liberal friends and their pages and their choices. I never want to judge anyone’s beliefs, lifestyle or choices.
I am at my most tranquil when I am caring for the well-being, happiness and the inclusion of others. It hurts to see others talk the talk but in reality have no real compassion for the happiness of anyone but themselves and their choice.
I was in a building the other day with hundreds of other conservative women. I looked around and saw doctors, teachers and attorneys. There were so many beautiful and diverse women and I thought to myself we are educated, informed and everyone of us had our own story.
You never know just why someone thinks the way they do until you ask them… and then you have to actually listen to and empathize with their reasons.
I do have a preferred choice but I honestly am not worried about who wins this election. Not much will change either- way and what does change can always be reversed.
What cannot be reversed is the hurt I’ve felt from those I respected and considered my friends. I can forgive, I’m good at that but the hurt is still there.
“If we don’t believe in the freedom of expression for people we despise we don’t believe in it at all.” Noah Chompsky