There’s a fine line between hate and ignorance. Sure, you could say hate always stems from ignorance, but sometimes the individual is just so confused, so out of place, so misinformed, that if they suddenly stumbled into hate, you wouldn’t be shocked. What I deal with on a day-to-day basis is usually just ignorance. But what I see on the television, what I read on the internet, what our elected leaders tell me, that, my friends, is out and out hate.
What brings this up? Disappointment, awkwardness, the inability to completely comprehend what the hell just happened. Disappointment in my grandfather, awkward situations at work, and utter confusion caused by politicians. Let’s explain.
I never spoke with my grandfather about politics until this past summer. While on vacation, we had a brief discussion about Obama and McCain. Basically, he didn’t care for either. McCain was simply too old, Obama was simply too inexperienced. He did have a few things to say about Reverend Wright, saying his sermons were “nasty,” but for the most part, I was encouraged to see that he was open to the idea of voting for someone other than whoever was on the Republican ticket. Yet, somehow over the last four months, his line of thinking changed. He has now decided against voting for Obama for one reason: the possibility that he might just be the anti-Christ.
I thought maybe this was just the confused thoughts of one particular aging Baptist. But after a conversation I had at work on Friday, it seems this thinking is much more rampant than I thought. A pair of ladies (I’d put them in the 50-65 area) called me over to talk about my tattoos. This lead to a discussion of religion, which lead to the following question: Do you think Obama is the anti-Christ? I, of course, thought they were joking. Just messing around because I’m the theology kid. So, I said, “No, no, no. But my grandfather is worried that he might be. I love him to death, but that’s just crazy thinking.” This was met with intense stares and the following, said in a hushed tone, “We don’t think it’s crazy.” I then walked away slowly as they babbled something about emails and chain letters.
This tells me something. It shows how susceptible people can be when it comes to what they read, or what they hear from friends and family. My grandfather is a good man. He loves his family, he loves his friends, he loves his city, his state, and his country. He is not a hateful person at heart. The problem, in this particular instance, is he loves his God, with all his being. And if this God warns of a stranger that will rise to power and end the world, by jove, he is going to look out for that person. Call it crazy, or agree with it completely, it’s something that has to be dealt with. I don’t want to call my grandfather anything negative, but in this case, he’s being lead astray, and that’s ignorance, at any level.
Along with my co-workers, he has been pummeled with hate-filled information at every angle: in the news, in daily conversation, in the pew, and probably worst of all, on the internet. Forwarded e-mails falsely accusing Obama of being a secret Muslim, hell bent on ending Christianity in America, are popping up like worms after a rainstorm. His middle name used as bait, his foreigner father used as ammunition, these are all ways of leading someone to a specific conclusion. Take for example the woman at the McCain rally that said, “I’ve read about him….he’s an Arab.” McCain, thankfully, corrected the woman, although he did so in a strange way, saying, “No ma’am, he’s a decent family man.” Of course, this leads people to wonder, “Are Arabs incapable of being decent family men?” There should be an effort on the part of John McCain to dispel the idea that “Muslim = Bad.” Thank goodness for Colin Powell and his recent comments on the topic. Something needed to be said by someone that is generally (no pun intended) respected throughout the country. It’s too bad most talking heads only focused on the fact that Powell is a black man endorsing another black man. Shocking, I know.
But this leads me to my biggest point: With the exception of Powell, what are our leaders doing to quell these hateful thoughts? The answer — they’re only throwing fuel on the fire.
I would have thought after the 2004 election that the idea of what it means to be a true “American” would be considered off-limits. This was supposed to be a time of coming together, of both political parties, after years of divisive tactics. I was pleased to see that gay marriage was no longer the hot button topic, that the economy and health care were top talking points. It appeared throughout the spring that we were headed for a level-headed campaign. But shockingly enough, like a virgin sacrifice thrown into a volcano, the closer it came to the end, the hotter it all became.
Suddenly, our fearless leaders were doing their best to make sure fear stays only among the people. McCain recruited an attack dog with bangs to spew out some good-time classics like, “Pals around with terrorists” and “Who is the real Barack Obama?,” and wouldn’t you know it, people were beginning to wonder if that guy from Kansas was actually the bizarro Jesus Christ. You know, Jesus’ evil twin. Of course people are yelling “terrorist” and “kill him” at rallies; why wouldn’t you want to kill the ultimate terrorist? It would be the Christian thing to do. (Side note: the Bible actually says so little about the anti-Christ that all of this just seems silly. It’s something you’d gloss over, if you weren’t reading deeply. But I digress).
This is an Us v. Them mentality, and it is mind-numbingly frustrating. As someone that has spent the last five years learning how to view the world from any possible viewpoint, I will never understand why anyone would want to completely separate themselves from diversity and civil discourse. When someone that could potentially become president, or a high-ranking adviser to a candidate, proclaims that certain parts of the country are not “pro-America,” or that northern Virginia is not the “real Virginia,” just because these areas don’t primarily vote Republican, I suddenly don’t want to understand their perspective — I want to change their perspective, and this goes against everything I believe in. This is why I’m angry. I’m falling into the trap. Not a day goes by where I don’t read something on a message board, or overhear a conversation full of bile and repulsive words, and it’s forcing me to choose a “side.” I don’t want to label myself in this regard, but guess what, I now have an Obama sticker on my car. I never thought I’d see that day I’d become a moving billboard.
This election, I wanted to vote because it was important, not because I can’t let the other side win. But now, I’m absolutely terrified about what could happen. I’m already penciled in for vacation on Wednesday, November 5th, just in case McCain wins and I won’t be able to get out of bed. I’m forming an ulcer over the thought of four more years of living in fear, of divisiveness. And what’s worse, I’m outright petrified that Obama will win, and some nutjob will do him in, “night out at the theater” style. So….shit. Basically, I’m going to spend every day worried, no matter what happens.
What I must define here is that I’m not voting Democrat because that’s who I say I am, or because it’s either one or the other. No, sir. What ideals am I voting for this election? There’s no avoiding the cliche here — I’m simply voting for hope. Sorry, but it’s true. I’m hopeful that my grandfather can finally sleep easy at night, because nobody on Fox News scared him with talk of boogey monsters in the White House. I’m hopeful that those I work with won’t feel the need to forward chain letters about terrorists, “just in case.” But mostly I’m hopeful that we can have leaders who will treat us like adults, not like impressionable children. I need to live in a place where every inch of the country is considered pro-America, even in that hedonistic den of antiquity, San Francisco. Am I certain that this will be achieved with Obama? Not 100%, no. But am I hopeful? 100% yes, I am. And that appears to be all I can ask for. Peace. Love. Gap.