Think/Don't Think

First, sorry for the delay in posting, comments, and posts from guest writers. It's been a busy, busy few weeks and I am getting some help from guests with going through the 60+ comments or so. With the hectic schedule, I even neglected any post-Election day blog :( Hopefully folks got to check out the other hundreds out there or even posts from folks on the Blogroll. But, even though I missed out on that piece (and there are some great ones in the pending box which I'll try and post soon!), I do want to write about some of the post-election conversations going on. Spawned by 'status updates' and such on things like Facebook, MySpace, Twitters, and conversations within those threads as well as comments on other sites that I've seen, there have been interesting nuances - both overt and roundabout - about race, beliefs, choices, etc. So, I'm calling this one "Things I Think. Things I Don't Think."

Before we get into the post, a little about where I fall in the whole political spectrum. Most people have assumed, because of the topics I write about, that I am a far left liberal. That couldn't be further from the truth! Actually, I fall just slightly left of center. There are even issues where I fall slightly right of center (shocking, I know). What has always fascinated me, since writing this blog over a year ago, was that most conservative people commented with the assumption that I was much different from them. A few nights ago, via a Facebook conversation, I ended up getting into it with someone who I realized wasn't all that different from me politically but who kept making assumptions that we were different. I kept trying to point out to the person that we were ACTUALLY AGREEING but she just couldn't see it. She had already labeled me as a left wing liberal and couldn't see that we were actually saying the same thing most of the time.

Some of the other conversations have been interesting because, through further discussion, our beliefs are shaped by where we live, who surrounds us, and what we believe about others.

All of the pieces here are from conversations that have surfaced in the past 6 days post-election.

1. I do not think you are racist because you voted for John McCain.

I do think that that sentiment is affected by where a person lives and how they have been treated. This is where a bunch of conversations have gotten started. An interesting phenomenon happened when I wrote that I was happy Obama won - suddenly, some of my acquaintances wrote things like, "Just because I voted for John McCain doesn't make me a racist!!" Interesting, I actually never even thought that voting for John McCain makes someone a racist. I thought it just made them a Republican. Hmm. I hope people voted for John McCain because his policies resonated with them - military, pro-life, health care, taxes, government involvement, etc. While we certainly all saw news stories that showed people with signs that said, "White is Right", I know that's a minority of people who believe that. So, no, I don't think saying you voted for John McCain makes you a racist. In fact, there is much about the McCain policies that I do like, but there are sticky ones that I don't. Had the McCain of 2004 been running again this year, I would actually have a tougher time (not the toughest time, but a tougher time) making a decision.

I had a conversation with a friend in Florida who voted McCain. She said that, where she lives, whenever she says she supports McCain, people yell and her and call her a racist. They call her stupid, uneducated (she has a law degree...), and ignorant. So, I can see where she's coming from. She made the leap that since I was voting Obama, I must think she's racist for voting McCain - because that's the climate that surrounds here where she lives.

2. I don't think that people who voted for Obama just because he's black are any better for people who voted for McCain just because he's white.

I do think that inherent qualities of a leader go much beyond race. I have as much a problem that folks simply may have voted because of race and not on an educated decision on an person's policies. Leading up to the election, when folks kept saying, "I don't know who to vote for!" my response was always "Then learn! Read! Ask! Find out about the issues!" I have the same issue when people said they voted for a candidate based on age - why should we discriminate based on age (whether you think older is better or younger is better)? We should discriminate (ie find the differences) in policies presented and ways in which the next leader will shape our country.

3. I don't think that racism has ended on 11/4.

I do think our country is healing from a 200+ year old wound that has been opened and re-opened over the past decades. There have been lots of Band Aid solutions over the years, and for me, this is a big huge step. But, racism isn't over.

4. I don't think the "big step" is that we've elected a Black/Biracial President.

I do think the "big step" is that our country came together in so many different groups. For the first time - at least in my lifetime - we saw true diversity of groups coming together for a single cause. Young, old, white, rich, poor, dark skin, light skin, Catholics, Baptists, Muslims all coming together. So, no, for me the "big step" isn't that a Black man is going to change the world; it's that we've witnessed what can happen when we all work together. For our country to move forward, we have to work together.

5. I do not think that people can be entirely defined by their party affiliation .

I do think that there are many layers to our political decisions. For example, my military family friend in Texas voted McCain because of his foreign policy. My McCain supporting friend in Florida voted McCain for his tax plan. My other friend up North voted because of his pro-life stance. But, each of these three don't agree with the other pieces. My military friend is pro-choice, but the foreign policy piece drove her vote. My Florida friend hates his foreign policy but the tax piece drove her vote. It's faulty assumption to believe that every single person embraces every single piece of a party platform. Like I mentioned before, there are certainly pieces of the Republican platform that actually fit my beliefs, but overall, I resonate better with the Democratic platform.

6. I do not assume that all people of color voted for Obama.

Again, people vote on different issues. But, I do find that people have been making assumptions that people of color ONLY voted for Obama. Which, to me, is problematic because the assumption is that it was done without learning about his policies, vision, platform, etc. It makes an assumption that people of color can't and don't do their homework, but instead "drank the Kool-Aid" (a term I've heard more times in the past few days than I heard during the Jonestown discovery).

7. I don't believe institutional membership directly resembles individual beliefs.

When I spoke out for support of gay marriage and families, a few folks said I was being a hypocrite because I'm a Catholic. Yes, I am Catholic, a practicing Catholic. I work at a Catholic school. My mom goes to church every single day. I find great comfort in being Catholic, in the words of the Bible, in the homily of my priest, and in the humble acceptance of the Body of Christ. I also believe that God loves us all, that He (or She) doesn't make mistakes, and that He (or She) would never create something that didn't have a purpose. So, yes, for me, that includes gay people, gay marriage, gay families. I also have found a Church that, while it doesn't accept gay marriage, does accept that God created us all equal and we should treat one another with love. My institution (the Catholic church) is not equal. It's built on heirarchy, male dominance, and submission. Those are the pieces that don't resonate with me. Just about everything else does. This is where I fall slightly more right of center.

Because of this, I don't assume that "all white people are racist" or that "all McCain supporters are racist." Because of my Catholic identity, people assume that "I don't believe in the right to choose" or that "I am against gay marriage." So, it always amazes me that folks write things like in #1.

I know that there are a few other guest writers waiting for their posts to go up, so I'll leave it at that. I hope that, post Election, people are having constructive dialogue. I noticed it was becoming destructive in my circle when folks were making the above assumptions. You may not agree -- as usual, I'm fine with that!

To Loosen. Ask questions. Hear experiences. Find out what has shaped a person's beliefs, statements , viewpoints before assuming that yours fits theirs. Much of the above came from me asking questions and people giving their stories. They didn't come from lecturing, dictating, and denegrating another's view. They came from asking more than telling. Listening more than talking. Observing more than judging. Can you do it? Can we do it? It's hard to loosen one's mind. Keep in mind no one is asking you to change your mind, rather to consider other views, other stories, other experiences that have shaped someone else's mind.