How Do We Talk With the Other Side?
This is an honest question that I don’t have the answer to. The majority of y’all are liberals who are decrying what’s going on. We wrote a lot last week about how our little factions and groups needs to work together better, listen to each other, etc. But I don’t think “our side” can do it alone. There are those (goddamned) indifferents who didn’t vote at all, and we need them on our side. But we also need some right-thinking Republicans on our side. They exist. But how do we find them, how do we talk with them, how do we get them to understand what’s going on here, why it’s so bad for so many reasons, why it doesn’t even comport with so many of the policy platforms that the Republican party is actually supposed to stand on?
I want to relay what happened late last week as an example of what happens when you try, and how it’s left me more lost on this point than ever.
There’s a guy I went to law school with and have been casual friends with since. He was always a Republican, but a reasonable one, able and willing to talk with us about issues in a rational and complex discussion. He’d sometimes say some stupid, pig-headed stuff, and though you might not get him to come around to the other side on the point, you could at least get him to acknowledge and understand our perspective. As a friend put it, “He didn’t think of others right away on his own, but could see the purpose in it if you pointed it out.”
Anyway, last Thursday this guy posts a thing on Facebook. It’s long, so I’ve included it at the end of the post. It portended to be a call to his fellow Republicans to be sympathetic and show civility, though its real point was made clear by saying they should just “humor them” [their liberal friends] and categorizing this as our side just being “disappointed” losers. But by posting something like this, you’re seemingly inviting discussion.
So folks spoke up in the comments. Some Republicans and like-minded folks applauded him for being so “classy.” I and several other friends, who all know each other and the poster personally, spoke up to try to explain why this was a false equivalence, why there are some fundamentally terrible things already happening (and this was all before the Ban and the NSC reshuffling disaster) that are oh so very different from it just being about our side having lost. There was some back and forth that made it clear none of our points were really hitting at all, but at least discussion was seemingly being had. But things devolved a bit following an attacking and belittling comment from his wife. I spoke offline with two friends and all agreed it was probably best to just keep quiet at this point.
But by the next morning, we had all thrown that aside and went back into it. I myself posted a long screed, which had a couple of curses in it, and certainly could’ve been “better” with some more thought and time behind it, rather than it just being a missive quickly typed out before I had had my first cup of coffee. But I honestly think it was a reasonable entry in the discussion. Yet when I checked the post a short time later, after finally having some coffee in me, the comment wasn’t there. I suspected it may have been deleted, but I honestly thought maybe I hadn’t posted it properly (I really function poorly until I’ve had that first cup). And because I had written it in another app on my phone, I happened to still have the original content, so I posted it again.
A few minutes later it was gone, and there was a note from the original poster about a twice-deleted comment being deleted because it lacked a “modicum of civility.” Livid, I took to my own Facebook wall and posted that comment, edited to mainly clean it up a little, with an intro and an addendum (again included below, both so you can read it if you care and in an effort to be transparent about the content I posted, for the purposes of what comes next in this story). He quickly untagged himself from it and deleted me as a Facebook friend, all as I expected. But then he went and reported it to Facebook as a purported content violation, which I learned late in the day when Facebook informed me of the report and that they had removed it as spam.
Putting aside whether or not it violates their content policies (I’ve read them - it does not), whether it meets their spam policy definition (I’ve read it - it does not), or whether Facebook should be in the business of removing political discussion (while it’s certainly free to do so, as a private company, it shouldn’t) … putting all that aside, this left me in the quandary I started off with. We tried to explain things to him. To explain where we were coming from, why this Administration is so terrible, why we should try to be on the “same side.” And the response we get is that he’s so thin-skinned that he can’t take some basic truths, some things that “our side” cannot and will not keep out of the discussion. He probably didn’t like me calling him out on his privilege, he probably didn’t like me asking him how he was going to explain that he was on the wrong side of history … I get it. This is all uncomfortable. But rather than engaging, trying to push back on these assertions, he goes out of his way to simply shut it all down.
I don’t think “our side” can do it alone. But how do we engage Them in meaningful conversation when They won’t listen?
So here is the message that this guy posted on Facebook:
I am sympathetic to those whose candidate lost the election, because I remember what it feels like. The long and well televised election season creates a powerful momentum of emotion - excitement and enthusiasm. There was endless opportunity to surround yourself with supporting viewpoints (indeed, the campaigns are trying to create groundswell). But when that momentum does not culminate in your candidate’s victory, there is an emptiness - the breadth of which cannot be captured by the simple word: “disappointment.” When the shoe was on the other foot, I recall populating my Facebook page with angry political commentary. Some people “unfriended” me … thankfully, most humored me. Eventually I found equilibrium and was able to turn my attention to the things in my life that I could control. It was a growing experience, and I recall it now with a sense of hopeful optimism. For all those of you who feel angst about the next 4-8 years, you’re going to be alright. After all, you are in good company with the Republicans of 4 and 8 years ago. For those Republicans who resist the urge to tell the other half of the country to “get over it,” you stay classy. Humor them. Give them time. And hopefully, when the shoe is - again - on the other foot (and it will be), the Left can show similar class.
And here is what I posted on my Facebook wall, including the comment that this poor guy felt so bullied by:
The comment below, edited for context, readability and the addition of an addendum, has been twice deleted from a Facebook thread. Greg, you can delete my comments, you can delete this post when it shows up on your timeline, you can delete our Facebook friendship if you so choose, but you cannot delete the import of these words. You say these words lack civility, you say you don’t defend our new president. But in speaking down to people who respond to a discussion you started, and not speaking against the policies already being enacted and the policies he has made clear he wants to continue to enact, it is you and those of a similar mold who lack civility. We will not shut up, we will not stop fighting….
Greg, your wife says you aren’t defending Trump. But if you can’t admit even that he is a liar, or that Steve Bannon is a racist wannabe Nazi, or that there is clear misogyny in a group of old white man standing around a desk and happily watching a bill get signed that will have no impact on men but cause women to be hurt and die … if you can’t admit some of these fundamental things because you are so fucking blinded by your partisanship (and assuming that’s all it is is me giving you the benefit of the doubt by assuming you’re still fundamentally the man I knew back in the day), if you can’t or won’t admit these things, you lose credibility with “our side.”
There is a fundamental starting point for any discussion with “the other side” from which we will not move.
In a week, this administration has set this country on a path which does not necessarily impact you or I directly. Upper class privileged white men are gonna survive this shit just fine. My immigration client who we helped get DACA status, who has worked and paid taxes for 15 years and would face a legitimate threat to her life in her “home” country because she is transgender, yet can’t seek asylum because her prior attorney (now disbarred) fucked her case up, she may not survive just fine.
The refugees we won’t let in despite no empirical evidence that “they” are terrorists or ill willed or anything other than people trying to get out of bad situations like most of our ancestors, they may not survive just fine.
The steps back we’re seeing and will continue to see against people of color, women and the LGBTQ community, create not just a legal landscape but an overall environment that means many of them will not survive just fine.
Congrats, you think it was wrong that your side went after Obama’s birth (though you don’t seem willing to admit that was stemming from racism). But that ain’t NOTHING like this and you are (or at least used to be) smart enough to know this.
[Added to my FB post] You guys wanna call us sore losers? You’re wrong, but you’re certainly free to do so. I am comfortable in the fact that when all is said and done we will be seen to have been on the right side of history. I hope you’re comfortable with the idea of having to explain to your children why you weren’t.