Politics can make enemies out of people who would otherwise be friends. I've never seen clearer examples of this than during the 2016 presidential campaign season. My Facebook feed is filled with grim announcements of "purges" -- people who are refusing to stay connected in even that most attenuated realm of social media. Friendships that have limped along long distance for years based on a few happy memories are now falling prey to bitter partisan politics. What for?
Yes, this presidential election, like any other, deals with Big Issues. The fate of our country, the unborn, the immigrants, the poor. Most of us are aware of the problems, and many of us disagree on how to solve them. But that's no excuse for the rattling of sabers and the smears of warpaint on screaming faces. One commentator aptly called the reactions "tribal." As if loyalty to a particular party had to be punched to a fever pitch to overcome the glaring deficits in the individual candidates themselves. Unreasoning loyalty, like unreasoning obedience, is not something to be prized.
And conversations surrounding this election have often descended to the most repugnant common denominator. Few would call me a prude (and those who might, don't actually know me well). But the constant snickering repetition of body parts jokes is distressingly puerile. I find Trump's declaration that powerful men have the right to manhandle women to be an all-too-common attitude. As a professional woman, an attorney-at-law, I have been groped at business dinners by clients and at legal association functions by judges. And I have never publicly complained, out of fear of these all-too-powerful men. Trump's words are not jokes. They are deep, dark, and appalling truths.
It is also no laughing matter that confidential information may have passed from Hillary Clinton to her adviser Huma Abedin to Abedin's estranged husband Anthony Weiner. Former Congressman Weiner's unfortunate name is eclipsed by his unfortunate behavior, which includes a possible sexting relationship with a 15-year-old girl. As a lawyer, I know the danger that secret misbehavior poses to the security of the system. Anything secret is a possible inroad to blackmail. As a mother of a 15-year-old girl who texts and snapchats all day long, I know the danger of a pervert who believes himself to be powerfully attractive and beyond the reach of the law. Read my lips. I am not laughing.
I understand those who will vote for Donald Trump with gritted teeth because they support some of the policies he articulates while abhorring his personality and life choices. Trump has promised to appoint pro-life justices to the Supreme Court and this is music to many people's ears. But Trump had earlier announced his intention to relax the language of the Republican Party platform on abortion, adding exceptions for rape, incest, and life of the mother. If successful, this change could set back the efforts of many pro-life groups far into the future, long after the end of any Trump presidency.
I understand those who will vote for Hillary Clinton whether out of fear of Trump's perceived demagoguery, or because she would be the first female president in a country long overdue for it, or because of her vocal support for core Democratic Party values on immigration and social supports for the poor. But she's adamantly pro-choice, which many bishops insist should disqualify a person from receiving the Catholic vote. And to elect as president a person under investigation by the F.B.I. for mishandling classified information is deeply troubling.
Some people I love will be voting for Trump, and others will be voting for Clinton. I cannot vote for either of them. My conscience won't let me. Appeals to practicality will not sway me. I will be voting third party. As a protest against the current political climate, it may be ineffective. As a message that my principles outweigh any party loyalty, it may go unheard. But I have reached my line in the sand, and I won't cross it.
As for why this is the only political post I'll write this election season, I don't want to argue about my decision, change anyone's mind, or fracture any friendships. I simply wish to explain my point of view and move on. Regardless of the results of this election, may God grant us all a better future where our interpersonal relationships matter more than the politics of the day.
Hillary Clinton image from public domain. Donald Trump image by Michael Vadon - →This file has been extracted from another file: Donald Trump August 19, 2015.jpg, CC BY-SA 2.0, Link