Tonawanda News

October 4, 2012

KEPPELER: Imagining America on Nov. 7

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The Tonawanda News

Tonawanda News — I had an odd dream last night.

I dreamed it was Election Night, 2012, and in the midst of all the hubbub on results and polls and projections that makes up the hours before the actual election is called, there came a sudden “breaking news” alert. It seemed, the serious talking heads on the news channel told us, that there had been some sort of voter misconduct discovered, and as such, the election was going to be temporarily suspended.

Cue the frenzy. Members of one party marching on the other with what I swear were the classic pitchforks and torches. (What can I say? It was a dream.) The other party fought back. Really, it doesn’t matter which was which ... the whole thing swiftly degenerated into utter chaos, anger and anarchy.

And then I woke up.

It’s not so difficult, really, to figure out where it came from. (Besides a recent story I read on voter machine weaknesses.) All I need to do is read Sound Off. Log onto Facebook. Look at Pinterest.

This year marks the 20th anniversary of the first time I voted in a presidential election (yeah, go ahead, do the math), hence the sixth time I’ll do so. That’s not such a great span of time in the overall scheme of things, but when I look at Election Day 2012, I feel old. Never in all that time have I seen quite as much venom and vitriol and sheer unwillingness to entertain the viewpoint of others — not to mention the sheer amount of utter falsehood flying around.

(I hereby take a paragraph to once again promote snopes.com. Please take a look before you verbally pass on, email, tweet or post to Facebook any of the multitude of political claims flying around right now ... about either presidential contender. I now return you to your regularly scheduled column.)

I understand holding opposing viewpoints. I know not everyone will agree with me. I know I won’t agree with everyone. Political discourse is a fine thing, really. If we don’t talk, how can we see each other’s side of the story?

But talking seems to be taking a backseat to sniping, discussion to finger-pointing and facts to “the Internet says ...”

I have friends of all political stripes — Republican, Democrat, neither, liberal, conservative — both on Facebook and in real life. Most of us manage to stay on pretty good terms with each other. Occasionally we don’t agree. OK. I can live with that. 

But I’ve also heard of family members (not mine) who have simply stopped speaking to each other until the election is done. I’ve seen Facebook comments and Internet memes (from both sides) that virtually drip condescension and scorn. I’m pretty sure I’ve been defriended on Facebook, once or twice, over politics, even though I keep my own comments fairly mild (and don’t directly post anything at all). The going attitude seems to be “My way or you’re a horrible, evil person.”

What is happening to us?

Agree or disagree, we’re still ultimately on the same team. We knew that after 9/11.

When did we let it get away from us? When did it get so personal?

On Nov. 7, we’re still going to be one country. We all have to live with each other. Let’s try to remember that.

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at jill.keppeler@tonawanda-news.com.

Jill Keppeler is a writer for the Tonawanda News. She can be reached at jill.keppeler@tonawanda-news.com.