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Kergan Edwards-Stout

Views & Voices

Obama’s victory and the aftermath of ‘Please de-friend me’

Wednesday, November 7, 2012
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This election was close — much closer than it should have been.

For those of us committed to progressive causes, it was a reminder that we need to work even harder to ensure future such races contain a message which is clear, relevant, and compelling, connecting the dots between the issues we care about and fiscal responsibility.

Our margin of victory should have been greater, and even in the election’s wake, I find myself contemplating the cost of lost friendships, as well as our best path forward.

Kergan (front, right) with his partner Russ, and their two sons, Marcus and Mason.
Photo by Sara + Ryan

Just two weeks ago, after several intense political exchanges on Facebook, I awoke one morning, unable to sleep, and typed up a status update, a manifesto of sorts, which quickly took on a life of its own.

In it, I asked those voting for Romney to de-friend me, given that much of what he advocated was a direct attack on me as an LGBT person, as well as the progressive causes in which I believe.

The reaction to this was swift, emotional, and tumultuous.

In the ensuing days, my post was shared and spread, with over 128,000 facebook likes at last count. People I hadn’t heard from in years contacted me to debate the merits of said post, arguing passionately for and against. I was de-friended by a handful of acquaintances, only to find myself friended by hundreds more.

What most people failed to grasp, though, was that I wasn’t personally planning to de-friend anyone. Instead, I wanted others to take responsibility for their actions and views, and de-friend me. I felt it was important that people examine their vote, its real world impact, and take ownership.

As I told those unwilling to de-friend me, if Romney won and followed through on his pledge to restrict my rights, I wanted them to be reminded, each and every time they saw me post, that they’d had a direct hand in my undoing.

While the article was provocative and created dialogue, and led to many other writers offering variations or alternatives to my de-friend stance, some of that discussion brought up attitudes I hadn’t anticipated.

Despite clearly noting that I was voting for Obama because I care about the environment, the poor, veterans, the elderly, equality for women, the freedom of choice, healthcare as a right, our rights as a family with two gay dads, and the economy, one newspaper editorial reduced me to being a “single-issue” voter.

While that may bring into question the writer’s math skills, the larger point, that my progressive voting position was inherently less important than their fiscal one, is one which we need to actively counter.

Progressive causes should not break the bank. There is a way to achieve human rights in a fiscally responsible way, and yet our detractors have successfully labeled us as “tax-and-spend, bleeding heart liberals,” implying that our love for such causes compels us to open our wallet at every turn, regardless of cost.

As made clear in this election, many people vote solely from their pocketbooks, and we have work to do in articulating a vision which not only upholds dignity and respect for all human life and the planet, but communicates that such advances can actually help stimulate our economy and, in turn, heal our deficit. Being committed to social causes and financial security are not mutually exclusive; we must clarify how they can work together if we are to ensure a greater margin of victory in the future.

On a personal level, I struggled this morning on how to best move forward, given my friends who say they support me, yet vote for policies and people which work to deny me my equality, as well as the subsequent tax benefits and protections conveyed under the law. I find myself questioning who I want in my life, and who I don’t…

Years ago, I made the difficult decision to cut my parents out of my life, due to what I perceived as anti-gay behavior. I told myself then that my self-respect meant more, in the long haul, than their bigotry.

Upon the birth of our children, however, I allowed that stance to soften, as I wanted my parents to be in our children’s lives, and for our kids to experience what it was like to have grandparents.

The night before the election, however, I got a call from my mother, telling me that she is joining a church this Sunday which I’d previously told her is anti-gay, preaching that homosexuality is a sin. The church is so well-known in our area that I actually once attempted to meet with the pastor, in an attempt to discuss and expand his views, but was denied.

My mother asked us to come to this new member event to support her, and it pained me to tell her that I could not knowingly step into a church which views me as evil. She doesn’t understand why we can’t make a “one-time” exception, to support her personally. And this strikes to the heart of my “Please De-Friend Me” post.

Both my mother and I are seeking support for who we are and what we believe, but our two stances are entirely contradictory. So what do we do?

Is it better to form tentative truces, knowing we are not being supported? Is it better to take hard-line stances and clear boundaries, to ensure we retain our self-respect? And what effect does it have on us to have people in our lives who do not respect or support who we are at our very core?

I’ve tried for years to get my parents to expand their worldview, but find that it will never change. I’ve tried mightily, during this election, to get others to see that their votes have real-world consequences, only to watch as they cast votes supporting my second-class status.

In both cases, I am conflicted as to the best course forward.

It is one thing to educate and build bridges of understanding, but if my basic right to equality isn’t respected, is that even a bridge I want to build???

© Kergan Edwards-Stout.
For more by Kergan Edwards-Stout, click here to visit his blog.
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