America’s New Civil War

Some of my relatives accuse me of being overly political, but I insist to them that until they have grown up as a gay person, being actually deprived of some very basic human rights, or in fear of being deprived of some very basic human rights, they have absolutely no ground upon which to stand.

Add to that the multiple years in which it was understood that who I was attracted to was on some level was “wrong” and “perverted”, and you might gain an understanding of why, now in my 60’s, I’ve adopted an “I don’t care who I piss off” attitude about how I feel. Politically or romantically.

Some of my relatives and I have come to a point where we have a a cease fire, which actually equates to “we don’t actually speak.” Other’s of my family and I get along just fine, with the understanding that certain lines cannot be crossed. I’m generally OK with that, as long as they don’t go off the deep end and say disturbing shit like “I ain’t votin for no damn nigger” or “The Bible says ….(insert stupid shit here…).”

The problem is, that gay, straight or undecided, which side of the political fence you stand on has come to be a catalyst for ill feelings at best, downright warfare at worst.

Since when did being a Republican or a Democrat mean we needed to get mad and change the locks and the wills? Since when did the President of the United States of America get to say “the Democrats” in the same tone of voice as John F. Kennedy used to talk about the Russians?

We have always been a two party system, occasionally adding in the occasional independent or flash in the pan third party to mix it up. But I don’t ever recall the level of vitriol now associated with being one or the other.

It’s no secret that for the most part, I’m a Democrat. I don’t always vote a straight party line, but for the most part, the Democratic party seems to be more “me” than the Republican Party.

But. There are some things the Republican party believes in that I also find attractive. There are some conservative bits in me, probably inherited from my Mother’s soundly mid-western father, or my own father’s upbringing as a hard-working blue collar man in the pre-union days.

I don’t recall a time in which you felt that you needed to keep your political party membership a secret for fear that a beloved relative would cease to communicate with you.

In my case, I admittedly have called some relatives to task, for in their zeal to embrace the ultra-conservatism of today’s Republican party, they’ve neglected to notice that some of the planks of that ultra-conservative party call for the basic civil rights of people like me to be curtailed, withdrawn or simply ignored. In case you have forgotten, people like me include Lesbians, Gays, Bi-sexuals, Transgendered and even sometimes baffling to me, the category of “Queer”.

I also have insisted that we actually need to talk about our differences, in person to one another and not just post inflammatory memes on our Facebook accounts. We need to do a better job of talking to our friends and our families, especially those of our friends and families who have opinions that differ from our own. We need to explore those differences together and using the fact that we have some common ground, that we care about each other, to come to an understanding on why we differ and how we can continue to respect each other, despite those differences.

Or, Heaven Forbid, through actually talking to one another, we can change our minds. We can see, through some one else’s eyes and experiences, another path. Not a Republican path, or a Democratic path, but a human path to something that is fair, and right.

What I see lately as I flip through the channels on my television set is a complete lack of anything resembling the middle. Everyone is either hard left, or hard right, and if you are inclined to be a person who wants to be in the middle, or a person who accepts compromise, you are looked upon by both parties as a traitor.

People are starting to use “Republican” or “Democrat” as pejoratives, with the same weight that we used to assign to words like “kike” or “wop”.

Whatever your political party, we are all Americans. We may have some disagreements about how to be governed, but it’s been my experience that when you get down to what really matters, we really aren’t that far apart.

There is a country song I heard on the radio the other day, by Tracy Lawrence called “If the world had a front porch.”

I remember the first visit to my Uncle Hubert’s house in Sweetwater Tennessee in 1964. I was 8 years old. It was the first time I had ever seen an outhouse. (I was terrified of it.)

But, Uncle Hubert and Aunt Mary had a Front Porch. With a swing. With rocking chairs. It seemed to me that their entire lives revolved around that Front Porch.

Instead of watching TV, we gathered on the Front Porch and talked. We sat on that Front Porch and watch people play horseshoes in the front yard. We ran around the yard with mason jars and collected fireflies to bring back to the Front Porch.

From the Front Porch, you could see who was going to town, who was coming from town. Who was dressed in their Sunday finest, who had a new car. You greeted all your company on the Front Porch.

As Tracy Lawrence says in that song, we treated the entire world as kinfolk because we met them all on that Front Porch.

The world does need a Front Porch.


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