I am a Republican. There. I said it.
As a nice Southern girl, there are three things that I don’t talk about: 1) my political affiliation; 2) my religion; and 3) my money. I was taught by good motherly instruction and through personal observation that these three topics are the devil’s trinity. I’ve seen families and friendships rent because of irreconcilable differences of opinion, religious ego, and the loose change in someone’s pocket. To entertain these things is to court danger; but lately, my buttons have been pushed and abused by a combination of unforeseen forces, and I’m speaking out.
I can’t accept that politics, religion, and economics are fair criteria for sizing up a person. As a young girl many years ago, I observed that even if nice ladies did talk about these things they whispered certain parts: “I met the couple who moved into the house on the corner the other day. They’re Episcopalians.” On the other hand, the more masculine manner of discourse was to cock your head to the front and side in the most redneck way possible and limit your responses to singular broken-syllable words: “Dem-o-crat.” Other ways of talking about the forbidden was to spell it out letter by letter or simply replace the key word with raised eyebrows and pursed lips. I never questioned these mannerisms although I never understood why it mattered in the first place; but I did learn to recuse myself from pushy conversations in which my own identity, opinion, or preference would have resulted in being insulted and then ostracized.
I started thinking about this a lot when I worked on my certificate in communications from Duke University. I was surrounded by writers and educators who assumed that everyone in the class was a Democrat. I never stood up and said, “Hey, wait a minute. I’m one of those dumbo-eared skanks you just generalized.” But the topic was definitely a ditch I was unwilling to die in so I just took it like a sweet little Southern woman whose manners vetoed rebuttals. I did, however, take a bit of self-righteous pleasure in thinking that I would have never made such uncouth remarks.
I can’t really say that all those assumptions and generalizations insulted me, but it did cause me to think about the lines of division and the need for American voters to pause for a moment of silence. I think we need to see each other and hear each other past political affiliations—as individuals capable of thinking and making decisions without negative ad campaigns, bumper stickers, and political catch-phrases.
It is dispiriting to me as an American voter when those I truly want to respect just don’t get it. So much of what we process in election years gets contaminated by personal encounters such as those I experienced at Duke. (And I’m not saying everyone and everything at Duke was like that. In fact, I’ve been told by other students that if anything, Duke is “conservative.”) In a perfect democracy, there would be equal regard for the common people constituting the source of political authority.
There’s too much talk going on. And not enough silence.