On balance during the election season, let’s all remain friends

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Social media has made political discourse a dicey affair. You have to be careful what you say -- or don't say.


One of those droll little Facebook cartoons appeared in my news feed the other day. I don’t know where these originate or recall who passed this one along, but the punch line went something like: “I wish there was a filter for ‘ignore political comments,’ so I don’t lose all my friends between now and the election.”

You may get a chuckle out of that, as did I, but when you pause for a second, aren’t you bothered by its prescience? Aren’t some of you a bit apprehensive to put into writing your innermost political secrets because someone you know might start to paint your reputation in a red or blue hue? Don’t you feel inclined to keep your politics in a closet for fear of coming out and exposing yourself to ridicule? Doesn’t that metaphor make a statement?

Political Paranoia appears the new “ism” of a fully engaged social media climate for the elective process. Maybe my head was deeply sub-sand-level in 2008, but the reverberations from an individual’s political positions seem to have so much more timbre  this year.

There is a possibility that I’m just seeing more and reading more and that there are thousands more people I know who engage in Internet “discussion.” Never having been one to wear my politics on my sleeve – in my position, that’s a requirement and not simply a choice – perhaps I am surprised when friends and family so loquaciously do.

If you’re one of those who has made a strong statement or commented on a posting, that doesn’t make me love you any less. It simply makes me afraid to talk to you for fear of saying the wrong thing at the wrong time. If I don’t “like” your comment, please don’t check me automatically on the opposing side of your personal political scorebook.

In fact, in the great political box score of life, I’m more DNP-CD: Did Not Play, Commonsense Decision. If I sit one out, don’t take my silence as a sound of opposition or acceptance.

In a discourse that encourages speaking one’s mind, not doing so might be the most powerful statement of all. There are consequences to the truth, no matter your definition.

My fear is not unfounded, because I’ve seen the unimpeded passions about a political position arrive with all the spitting venom of an African viper. I’ve seen those labeled as “friends” – understanding that the true definition does not apply – say incredibly mean things to another’s response to a political pas de dux(if you will pardon my French).

A business owner in Shelbyville just this week posted a comment that said something to this effect: Free speech is great, but is it worth the price of offending those you love?

Not to violate my own creed, but I would vote “no” in that election.

Commentaries on political conventions – the Democrats are batting this week – are fair game, and as much as Clint Eastwood’s staring down an empty chair is fun and fair fare, I will allow the pundits and entertainers (draw your own lines) to spin those events into what they really are: pep rallies for the aligned masses.

If you take offense at something said in one of those conventions, you likely would have been similarly appalled to hear Charlie Strong or Joker Phillips – winner goes first – talking to their fan bases last week. If you worship at the feet of John Calipari, whatever Rick Pitino says should be ignored, not analyzed. And vice versa.

All of that – and the rhetoric in conventions – is about the fans and has very little to do with governing (or coaching). Although, you have to admit the methods are quite similar – you talk up your team and poor mouth the other guys. The only problem in politics is that other than a debate, there is no mano-a-manoto decide anything.

In fact, politics is a sport more like figure skating and gymnastics than football or basketball: It’s not who makes the points but how the judges grade them that matters. And we are the judges.

To me, that process most mimics gymnastics, with the winner determined by opinion and calculation and not really based on one person’s head-to-head superior talent and ability.

Wouldn’t it be fun if we could see Barack Obama and Mitt Romney at least try to knock one another off the balance beam, with the last man standing declared the winner? No, in politics, imbalance only is created with hot air, not with any true ability or agility.

Now, if you take offense to that – or anything else typed here – please forgive me. I don’t mean to offend but rather to look at all of this and try to have a bit of fun with it.

If I don’t “like” your joke, it has nothing to do with you. You don’t have to like mine, but please don’t “unfriend” me for this.

I’m simply staying in the center of the ring and letting the circus go on around me.

Uh-oh, now I did it.