My daughter, the always delightful Fangette, paid me (and her father) a compliment the other day. Fair warning, don’t get too excited or verklempt before you hear it. She said, and I quote, “the one thing you people got right was that you didn’t raise a racist”.
I suppose if we had to get “one thing right”, that would be it. I’d like to think that we got a few other things right, too. Still, a compliment from a teenager is a compliment from a teenager. One cannot get too excited about its content. I said, “you’re welcome”. My plan was to leave it at that.
I knew where it was coming from. It came very shortly after the Ferguson verdict. An issue that Fangette was, to put it mildly, worked up about. To add insult to injury, I gathered — from snippets of conversations — that some of her friends were not as horrified by the outcome as Fangette was and, in turn, thought they should be. This is how it came to pass that Fangette, possibly for the first time in her life, realized that not all of her friends and acquaintances shared her exact politics. For the record, my daughter may, in fact, be more liberal than her mother. And, that’s saying something.
Fangette’s first reaction was to label some of them racists. I thought this was unfair. I argued that how we as a society view “otherness” is steeped in far more than our politics. I took the time to remind her that just because some of her peeps were not outraged, were supportive of law enforcement, or were simply keeping their mouths shut, did not necessarily mean they were racists. Further, to cast them as such did them — and her — a grave injustice.
I pointed out that there were any number of people posting the same things on social media — the same memes — as her friends were. She suggested I “unfriend” all of these folks immediately.
I did not do that, nor will I. I am of the opinion that everyone has a right to their opinion. I don’t have to agree with them, they don’t have to agree with me. We can still be friends. I wouldn’t marry them or anything, but luckily for me — and for them — that is not even at issue.
Does it drive me a little crazy sometimes that some of the people that I know post things that sound ridiculous? Of course it does. Do I say anything to them? Not usually. Has it occurred to me that it’s just possible that only I find some of these things ridiculous? Of course it has.
What I’ve come to realize in my middle age is that friends are hard to come by. Good friends are even more difficult to find and to hold onto. And, do you want to know something? If it weren’t for social media, Facebook especially, it is entirely possible that I would never know anyone’s politics. In my world, politics rarely comes up in conversation.
I have never, for the record, seen any of the people who tend to trot out their right-wing views on Facebook, act anything but kind and generous in their “real” lives. I have never heard them utter a racial slur. They seem fine with their children having friends and other relationships with all sorts of people who are not white. They have similar relationships themselves. Why they choose to post what they post to their Facebook pages is beyond me. But, it’s a free country, right? Who am I to criticize?
Young people are quick, I think, to scratch people from their lives because they don’t share their same zeitgeist. Call me crazy (or tolerant), but I think listening to the views of others, especially when they bring a different perspective, is a good thing. Or, at least I always did. Now? I don’t know. Maybe tolerance is a thing of the past.
I hope not, though. Because if it is, there are quite a few people I’m going to sorely miss having in my life. I do know a few left-wing nutjobs, but I don’t like them half as much as I like the people who don’t always share my political beliefs.
I have reached the conclusion that as long as they’re fine with who I am, then I can be fine with who they are. If that makes me — as my daughter intimated that it does — a hypocrite, so be it. I suppose that as long as I’m a hypocrite who did “one thing right” as a parent, I can live with that, too.