Political season is upon us once again. It is, without exaggeration, my Christmas. It embodies my religion and my passion. It also brings out the worst in me.
I grew up with a political father. “Goddamned Nixon” was a household refrain for much of my youth, as were his political opinions and Democratic Party allegiance birthed in early-20th century small Texas town. Because of that latter point, my willingness to challenge authority and loved ones were teethed early, not because I was political, but because I didn’t understand why draft dodgers were bad, why black people fighting to be treated like white people were bad, why hippies (many of whom cared for me when I was chronically ill in the hospitals) were bad. My dad used to say that I would argue with a fence post. Little did he realize that his bigotry had teethed me.
I didn’t become political for another half-dozen years. But when I did, sure enough, I opposed my father. I was first able to vote in 1980, and I voted Republican.
I voted for Ronald Reagan in part because he was charismatic but mostly because Pat Robertson told me that real Christians voted Republican. And being a new holy roller courtesy of Reverend Robertson’s 700 Club, well, from God’s lips to my ears! I stayed in the Republican camp until my sophomore year at Texas A&M, when I showed up at a church Halloween Party (aka “Fall Festival”) and realized that the only other students there were kids who nobody else wanted at their party. God and I had a chat that semester and agreed that I needed some time away to figure some things out. (That God, the one that loved me enough to let me explore, is still the one I worship happily. That old “Pat Robertson” God, with his gay-bashing hurricanes, is someone I no longer recognize.) And, once I detached from that Republican God, I found few logical reasons to vote for the Grand Old Party.
Fast forward twenty years to the economic crash of 2008, and my business tanking, and a lot of bad economic shit that left me for years with a house payment that was perpetually out of reach. I went, almost overnight, from going out and selling websites, meeting people, shopping at Whole Foods, meeting people, and generally having a great time in downtown Austin, and meeting people, to becoming extraordinarily desperate and alone at home, sweating out house payments, foreclosure threats, and afraid to leave the house and every dollar spent. I became, without exaggeration, the liberal version of that unemployed and stressed out blue collar guy who Fox News flips from moderate union member to raving right wing nut job. (See above: politics encompasses my religion, and is my passion.) Politics were all I had, and all I had to blame. I became an FDR-worshipping, social safety net-clinging, keyboard-slinging social media al qaeda.
Between Obama’s 2008 campaign and the 2016 Democratic primary, that jihad costs me most of my close conservative friends. Not satisfied with that degree of destruction, I latched onto Bernie during the 2016 primaries and eschewed Hillary, and went after her with a hatch, and lost half my close liberal friends. Unlike bin Laden’s al qaeda, which took down the Twin Towers, I fared like a gunpowder-caked Looney Tunes version of the jihadi terrorist who made it out of the cave but left my skeleton behind.
What I wrote above is why I abandoned Facebook last year, because at some point you pass a mirror. And, depending on your diet, your reflection garners either a “Hey there, handsome!” or a “Who the hell are you?” In my case that handsome comment never came into play. No, I fucked up.
Over the past few months, I’ve begun checking-in on Facebook. But the political stuff I save for Twitter, where the people I follow and who follow me are, like me, exorcising political demons. I know few people there, and we tend to share the same concerns, so I figure there’s no harm, no foul for speaking my mind. At best it’s mental paintball (if, at times, with real bullets).
I am certain most of the people I offended on Facebook don’t follow me, anymore. My loss. And I mean that sincerely. For those of you who do follow me, still, a friendly warning from personal experience:
This is going to be an ugly damned year that will make the past two look like friendly kindergarten banter. Be careful what you say. You won’t sway a single opinion on social media. Not one! The most you will do will vent and, if you are extraordinarily skilled, potentially educate. But that won’t be done with memes, nor with brash or generalized statements, nor with insults or slights. Most likely, all you will do is engender hard feelings.