[this is the standard "written on the fly and in the heat of passion" disclaimer. typos, bad grammar and spelling and mixed metaphors may or may not be edited later. this is raw meat.]
That's how many emails I received today from people telling me that they, too had been cast aside by old friends because of political differences.
Ten people who once had good friends, but one date - that date being September 11, 2001 - drew a line between them.
I've been living on that line for two years now. I had been doing a balancing act for a while, swaying to the left and right, wondering on which side of the line I would eventually fall. That I had to fall on one side was not my idea, it was the idea of people pulling me - or pushing me - in either direction.
I've written about
the chasm between "us and them" before. It's only getting worse. When I said that this year is going to be
all over again, it wasn't hyperbole on my part. It's getting there. The build-up is going to go on for months and the culmination will happen in August or November. It's ugly now and it will only get uglier as time goes on.
But who is making this divide? It's not me. I can say that with all honesty. I'm not threatening you or blackmailing you with friendship so that you vote my way. I'm not telling you that you are an idiot for voting the way you see fit. I don't hate you if you don't think like me.
I have not dropped one friend since I crossed that center line. They
have made the decision to drop me
. I have not declared liberals or democrats or whatever you call yourself on that side of the fence my enemy. I don't hate you. I don't want this divide. I don't want America to self destruct in a couple of months.
And there's that hippie/liberal who still lurks deep down inside me coming out. I do want to live in peace and harmony. Who doesn't? I do want rainbows and fuzzy bunnies and a world where everyone smiles. I want to hold your hand even though we don't see eye to eye on everything. I want to be able to talk to you about what we do have in common rather than fight over the things we don't. Most of all, I want to learn from each other. I want to know why you feel the way you do, why you vote the way you do. I want to talk, to debate, to understand where everyone else is coming from.
When I was in high school I had this vision of a perfect America, where everyone wore flowers in their hair and were pleasant to each other and to other nations. I had a dream. It was a stupid, naive dream, but it was mine. The older I got, the more I realized how unlikely it was that I would ever see such a peaceful America.
But I never in my wildest dreams imagined anything like this. As an eight year old child, I stood in the midst of an all-out riot that broke out during a protest of the Vietnam war. Even at that age, I read the paper every day, I watched the news and I knew that America was not a happy place. People were mad at each other. People were hating and fighting and crying. But I never once felt the venom that and pure hatred that I am feeling now. I never thought in 1970 that the divide was final. I do now. And it's depressing.
Just remember when you talk about the great divide in that I have not disowned you. I have not crossed you off my Christmas card list or taken your email out of my address book. Those ten emails I got today were all from people who have been dropped off the cliff by people who use voting for Bush as a litmus test for friendships.
That dream world I envisioned when I was 16 is just a fantasy. The nightmare I'm seeing now is real. It eats at me every day. I admit that I was part of it for a while. But I realized what I was doing and stopped. I stopped spending my days writing about what the folks at Indymedia were up to. I stopped scrutinizing every sentence a liberal columnist wrote. I tried to be kinder and gentler and less divisive so I would not be part of the death of my own teenage dreams. I put on my smiley face and hoped for the best. I wrote about my family, my life, anything but what the left was up to. It's been almost five months since I went on my left-bashing hiatus. When I write about politics now, I try to do it from my own point of view and not spew hatred against people who don't share that view. I make the effort to spread peace, love and understanding.
I am so angry today, so disappointed and sad. What have we done with this country? What have we become?
In October I compared the tension between the left and the right to West Side Story.
Towards the end of that entry, I wrote:
There's a definite rumble coming. There's gangs lining up on every side; the terrorists here, the protestors there, the pro-war people, the Jew-haters, the Death To America crowd, the extremists and Bush haters; it's showdown time in the back alley!
We've been dancing too long. The tension in the gym, all decorated with flags and anti-flags, depending on which side you are standing on, well, its become unbearable. We're gonna rumble like it's 1968.
Alas, everyone loses in this rumble. Everyone. We all go home with our heads hanging and blood on our shirts.
Too bad. I was really hoping we could dance.