Yesterday was Super Tuesday. Politics are all I can think, hear, read, or talk about. It’s exhausting and mostly depressing and I am desperate to feel hopeful again. I’m a Democrat, as you may have guessed by my feelings of hopelessness, but wait! Before you go running for the hills and click the X outta here, this is not going to be a political bashing of any candidates. No, I do not like Trump, and I voted for Bernie, so you know where I stand, but this is not a political blog, it’s a dating blog, and dating is about love, and love in general has taken a hit. I’m blown away by the polarizing environment of politics today and the effect that it’s having on not just dating, but the way that we treat each other overall.
When I was younger, I always wished that I could have grown up in my parents’ generation. Yes, they are Baby Boomers, and I know we’re all out here making fun of Boomers today, but that’s a very recent development, at least in my book. I admired the marches and the protests and the organization and the changes that the Boomers made happen. I was fascinated by the idea that my Dad went to Viet Nam as a sniper, but disagreed with the war after returning and became a hippie. Like, full on with the long hair, mustache (the mustache stayed, the long hair did not), and even a headband in some old pictures I’ve seen.
When he returned from Viet Nam, the political tension in the US was so high that he wouldn’t even tell people that he had been in the Army. And he had two Purple Hearts! Soldiers returning from home were treated badly, as if the war had been their idea, their plan, for their benefit.
I can’t think of many things more disappointing than shaming a young man (or woman) returning from serving our country in a foreign land; laying his life on the line, being hit by bullets and shrapnel, watching men in his squad be killed, having to kill, not being able to trust the ‘hungry’ children coming towards you for fear they were tricking you and holding a grenade instead of an open hand, all because it was their duty. They were serving their country, following orders, and being greeted not by welcome the home parades that the WWII vets received, but by angry protestors flipping them off, yelling at them, and blaming them for the war. It was misplaced frustration that got taken out on the soldiers, and I fear that it’s happening today in a different way.
No, we’re not taking it out on soldiers anymore (at least not that I know of), but we are taking it out on each other. We live in such a polarizing time with such a, I’ll say, unique president, the likes of which we’ve never seen. People are angry and frustrated, scared, hopeless. And yet other people are proud, holding their heads high, supporting the president, and espousing his rhetoric. Some people feel like we are at the end of the world, and others feel like this is the world they’ve always wanted. How can this be? How can we feel so vastly different about the state of our country today?
I know it’s impossible to get everyone to agree, but when did we become so angry at each other? Politics have always been a touchy subject, but never in my life have they been a subject of such disparity that I would count a person out as a potential suitor based on who they support politically. But I do now. That’s hard for me to say out loud, or write down, for all of you to read, but it’s the truth, and I know a lot of other people who feel the same way. We’ve reached a point of what feels like no return; where if you believe one ideology and I believe the other, we are such fundamentally different human beings that we will never get along. Maybe it’s a perfect filter, or maybe it’s becoming too big of a division.
My boyfriend in college voted for Bush both times. I didn’t like it, but it wasn’t a deal breaker. We didn’t yell at each other or shame the other one for their beliefs. We talked about why we felt the way we did and learned that we actually agreed on a lot of things, and disagreed on a few.
These days, I don’t think it’s possible for a Bernie/Warren supporter to date a Trump supporter, and it’s coming from both sides. We both have had so much hate and anger and frustration thrown at us from both parties that we can’t even keep our heads on straight. And now, the fighting is spreading into the Democratic party. It’s not good enough to be a Democrat; if you support a different candidate people are now coming after each other and telling them how they’re wrong. It’s stressful and it’s too much!
I’m not saying that liberals and conservatives need to go out on dates and marry each other, but I do think we need to reassess where our anger is being directed. Right now, we’re directing it at each other. Trump supporters hate liberals; Liberals hate Trump supporters; Warren supporters hate Bernie supporters; Biden supporters hate Warren and Bernie supporters, and the list goes on. We all hate each other, or are at least acting like we hate each other, and I don’t know about you guys, but the cost it’s taken on my mental well-being is heavy.
I am an eternal optimist. Well, at least I try to be. These days I have to remind myself of that. We have a lot happening right now, with climate change, healthcare, border security, foreign wars, homelessness, and the list goes on and on. We all have our opinions, but instead of sharing them or discussing them, we shout them at each other, usually on the internet, and we place the blame on the people who disagree with us, rather than the people who are actually doing the governing.
And the result has been separation, alienation, and black and white lines drawn between who we will even SPEAK to and who we will not. Which brings me back to dating. Not just dating, but the interactions that we have with people every day, whether they’re strangers, acquaintances, friends, or family. It feels like a minefield that we have to delicately navigate for fear of blowing up a relationship at any moment. Friendships are ending, family members are writing each other off, and love, in general, is leaving our lives.
If you’ve read my blog at all in the past, you know I haven’t had the best luck in love. But guess what? I keep trying. I have not and I never will give up on love. And just because I don’t have romantic love in my life currently doesn’t mean that I don’t have love in my life. I have SO much love in my life! My family, my friends, my cat! (It’s actually Remi’s 10th unofficial birthday today/8th adoption anniversary, in case you were wondering.) I love the mountains, I love the ocean, I love music, I love dancing, I love writing, I love laughing, I love being healthy, I love where I live, I love my freedom, and I love that I get to be alive at all. And I’ll bet a lot of you love those things too. (Not cats, I know. Don’t worry I love dogs too I just don’t have one right now.)
Maybe if we can focus on these things that we do love, that we do have in common, that we are willing to fight for, we can find some common ground again. We can find our way back to a society that respectfully disagrees, rather than hatefully argues.
I know it’s unrealistic to think that we’re all going to realize that “What?! You love sunsets too?!” and then all will be right with the world. That’s not what I’m saying. What I’m trying to say is that we are all focusing on the negatives, the differences, the things that separate us. Maybe we could try to focus on the positives, the similarities, and the things that unite us.
My Dad was an optimist. He came back from Viet Nam when he was 19 years old. He went through hell while he was there and he was treated with disrespect when he returned. But you know how he chose to look at life? With gratitude. Gratitude that he was alive; that he was free, that he got to go to school, that he got to play the drums in a band, that he could choose where to live, who to love, that he had two healthy daughters, a happy marriage, and that he could take care of his family.
He kept a burned, warped old can on his desk, and when I was a kid I asked him about it. The can was in his pocket when he was hit by shrapnel from a nearby soldier stepping on a mine. The can saved his life by taking the hit instead of his femoral artery. It was a can of apricots. He kept the can to remind him every day how lucky he was, but he never touched apricots again.
My Dad died in 2012 of a brain tumor that may have been partially caused by his exposure to agent orange. (I’m not making the claim, but there is a study happening that’s examining the connection between Viet Nam vets with brain tumors and their exposure to agent orange.)
I often wonder what he would think of the state of our country today. I wish that I could ask him how to stay positive; that I could turn to him to pick me up when I’m feeling beaten down by the hate and anger that surrounds us all today. But I can’t. So I want to do what I think he would do.
WWGD? (What would Greg do?)
Find the good, spread the love.
It’s okay to disagree with people, but it doesn’t mean you have to treat them badly. It doesn’t mean you have to hate them. It doesn’t mean you don’t have anything in common with them either. We are going through a tough time as a country, there’s no doubt about that. So let’s try to make it a little easier on ourselves, on each other, by leading with love instead of hate. If you can’t muster up love (understandable), maybe just neutrality. Let’s try not to jump straight to anger when we hear something that differs from our beliefs.
Besides, if my Dad could be a soldier and a hippie, a drummer and a lawyer, a dog lover and a cat lover, all in one lifetime, I think that we can all find some common ground.