(Wrote this for HEX Magazine for the editor, who is a friend, who needed the voice of centrality.)
I'm LDS and I’ve voted left, right, and Green. I believe in the center. I believe in moderation. Even in the Mormon Moment, and especially on Facebook.
A friend of mine recently referred to the act of defriending someone as “the social equivalent of walking away from your weird racist relative at a family reunion.”I defriended my husband during the heat of the last Presidential campaign. It was a move motivated largely by the vitriolic political gusto with which he painted his Facebook wall. It was offensive and somewhat frightening, although, ironically, we were voting for the same candidate.
I’m sure you noticed it too, because my husband wasn’t the only one fueling the Facebook political inferno. By late September my impatience with the combatant opinions came to a head and I posted seven personal statements in retaliation to the daily ugliness in my feed:
(1) If you and I have differing political views there is no reason that either of us should consider the other lacking in good judgment or reason. It is an opinion based on life experience and ideology. That is all.
(2) If you and I are of the same faith and we have differing political views it doesn't mean that either of us is lacking in moral character or in righteousness.
(3) Just because one of the candidates happens to be of my faith doesn't mean he is any less human and prone to flaws. He is not Jesus Christ. People who vote for him are not more righteous than those who won't—ESPECIALLY IF THEY ARE ALSO OF THAT FAITH.
(4) This election is NOT about who is more Christ-like. They are both politicians, for crying out loud! In the end, the only Christian acts that will matter are those of each and every individual American. Regardless of whom a person votes for, regardless who is elected, personal adherence to the principles and ordinances of the gospel of Jesus Christ are the ONLY factors that determine a person's progression in the next life.
(5) If you are experiencing feelings of holiness for who you are voting for, you are part of the problem.
(6) I am certain Jesus doesn't care who you vote for as long as you love him and keep his commandments, which means loving your neighbor who's voting for the other guy.
(7) Breathe. Whomever ends up in office, it's still—“WE THE PEOPLE." The President may have power, but we are the ones who do the vast majority of the work to make this country what we want it to be.
Unlike my husband and the political loudmouths on Facebook I understood that the need to be in the right creates psychological barriers between the ego-motivated and those who hold differing points of view. This unmitigated immersion in politics can result in a dangerous separation from one’s humanity and a stalling of the personality. I watched this happen not just on my husband’s Facebook, but to him personally. The general mood in our home compressed into an atmosphere of chilling anger and stifling resentment toward anyone who might contradict his political leanings. Most often that meant me.
Tragically, when the election ended, the domestic oppression I was living with did not. By November my husband and I had separated. Last week I filed for divorce. Obviously marriage is multi-faceted, and problems that dissolve a union can’t be assigned to just one area of concern. But the divide created by frenetic political fervor is hard to ignore in this case.
Andrea Radke-Moss, a professor of history at BYU-Idaho and a good friend of mine recently told me, “I consider the vitriol of political extremism akin to the power of pornography. I see it in students, family members, ward members, and all over Facebook. All it breeds is hatred, fear, conspiracy theories, and cynicism. Every single conversation turns back to the person's obsession. It destroys families and friendships just as cruelly as any other addiction. My heart and soul are bleeding for you.”
Moderation. In short, we need to know where to draw the line.