Earlier today I opened an an email from a dear friend of many years. It was entitled "Didn't realize he did so much that DIDN'T MATTER....Interesting read." The lengthy missive went on to present a "logical" string of facts to prove that President Obama is a socialist. It closes with "Add these up one by one and you get a phenomenal score that points to the fact that Barrack Hussein Obama is determined to turn America into a Marxist-Socialist society."
I stopped all that was on my agenda to respond:
There is so much we have in common. Much more than separates us. One of those things is a that we love this country... one might say we are patriotic.
I am saddened when I see this sort of "logic" trying to prove that the President of the United States is a socialist. There is no question that his political leanings are more progressive (or liberal, if you prefer) than conservative. It was because of his promises, his progressive agenda that he was elected.
As an openly gay man, those positions have given me great hope that I might be granted all the Constitutional rights and responsibilities that I have been denied based on who I love. I voted for this man because he promised to repeal "Don't Ask, Don't Tell." I voted for him because he promised that my then partner, now husband, would have access to the health care he was denied because our marriage was not legally recognized. I have a very personal understanding of what health care reform means. I can tell the story of the stress that exists when someone has no health insurance. Frankly, I have been disappointed that he has been unable to fulfill many of these promises as quickly as I would have liked.
Without regard to whether we agree on these issues, or others however, the letter you forwarded to me causes great concern. There is a propensity to label those with whom we do not agree in terms which are laden with emotion. When a conservative sees someone labeled as "socialist", or a liberal see someone labeled as a bigot, or "hater," conversation ceases. Civil discourse and dialogue stops, and that which makes us an effective example of representative democracy is weakened.
What can we do about this? Often we feel helpless as individuals to change such broad societal trends. But change must start somewhere. We can stop forwarding letters like this to anyone. I suspect that this will stop you from forwarding such emails to me. Please consider stop forwarding inflammatory material this to those with whom you agree.
We can stop labeling people in terms that are extreme. It is an easy way to make them the "other." It brings all chance of meaningful engagement to an end.
Let's all work together to mitigate separation and facilitate discussions based on our common humanity. Let's play to our best instincts, that which those of us people of faith might call a grace-filled placed.