Digital House of Lies: How I Facebook-Blocked Myself from all Political Reality
This is the first in a two-part series. Click here for Part Two.
I started writing things down about the position of politics in my life for a personal blog I started this year — still wary if it should be touched on at all in that space. Politics is personal after all, I am not a “writer” by definition, let alone a political one, and my intent was to enlighten readers as a brand new blogger. Not scare them off.
But the more I thought about it, my site’s tagline — “My Truth as I Know It” — existed significantly in the topic of politics. I believed I could enlighten if I could be completely transparent about my evolving “regular-person” political thoughts, and decided to break them into two parts for my blog. The text from which is copied here.
This post will explain where my lifelong ideas come from — the ways my upbringing shaped my beliefs — and the next will describe the journey I’ve been on over the last year to find a deeper level of truth in all of it.
My grandpa is a union man to the very center of his being —climbing the ladder from rank-and-file, plant-floor union member to the office of International President in a career covering nearly five decades. Now retired, he fulfilled his life’s purpose by helping the working class organize together for a better, more dignified life.
He passed the good word down through the family in the process, rightly believing this work was the answer to the struggles of middle class families.
I understood his calling as well as a self-absorbed child and tween could growing up: not much. I knew we were “Democrats,” rooted in the understanding that his lifetime saw injustice in the workplace, it touched his family at a young age, and he chose his adulthood service and political leaning accordingly. I respected that deeply and I’ve never known this man to be wrong about anything. If he told me I was a Democrat, I was dutifully taking his word for it.
Upon graduating from high school in 2001, I left home to work with him at the union headquarters. I chose this path very carefully just like this: I hadn’t made any other “choices” about my future and a well-paying job was available. (I was 18, guys, were you expecting something more profound?)
That November, I stuffed all my belongings into my 1988 Toyota Corolla and followed my granddad’s union-made Cadillac all the way from Franklin County, Ohio to Montgomery County, Maryland.
Two days later I met all the other Democrats I would be working with, beginning my next chapter as an employee of Labor.
By this point, I’m not sure Republicans are an actual thing? I’ve heard of these Republicans, but where do they live?
In the years to follow, I would attend art school in Washington, D.C. I would work my way through a handful of positions at the union, landing in the Communications Department around the age of 24 with my Bachelor’s Degree in Advertising. Through art and creative contribution, I would learn the messaging of the union and further make the case for my lifelong political beliefs. We were indeed empowering the working class, and my grandpa — in his corner office up the hall — became my moral idol.
Around that same time, Barack Obama was making his big break — the younger, more Kenyan version of my granddad. Perhaps he had a bit more swagger and a better jump shot, but there was something innately familiar about his charisma and common sense vision. The man was wise. Whenever I felt sad with humanity he showed up behind that TV podium, sat me on his knee and explained why everything would be okay.
I proudly marked “Democrat” on my voter registration and hit the polls in 2008 and 2012.
Let it be clear: I knew there were people out there unhappy with this arrangement. I saw radical signs in the streets of D.C. and caught the oddness of the Fox News stream from the treadmill at my gym once in awhile. Those just weren’t any of my people. I didn’t work with any of them, I still wasn’t sure where exactly they lived, and Facebook wasn’t yet the nightmare it is now.
I was acutely aware when one was in the room, though. I steeled for what they might say if compelled to speak. I only knowingly shared rooms with Republicans on unfortunate occasions like weddings and Thanksgiving. It was just too risky, my mind was too open for these people (as you can clearly tell).
This had been a comfy life of political thinking, validated by the two sweeping elections of President Obama. As 2016 approached, I had made it 33 years a proud Democrat with no real reason to ask questions. I may have been forgetting 16 ounces of pumped breast milk in the work frig twice week as motherhood relentlessly challenged my identity…but politically I was a decided and comfortable Democrat.
Then…the reality show of America went down. Taking up most of that 33rd year and ending with the most shocking finale in TV history on November 8th.
I won’t draw this out or try to speak for the losing half of the population, but I for one did not see that coming. I grew up in a rock solid echo chamber. I did a champion job protecting it by avoiding all intellectual contact with Republicans and blocking every opposing opinion I saw on Facebook. Make America Great Again? Great knowing you, Barbara. ::block this user::
I reinforced my digital house of lies, one “TRUMP 2016!” at a time. I don’t need this kind of emotional abuse from assholes like Barbara, you know? Besides, there are like five Barbara’s in the world according to my very accurate Facebook sectioning, who cares about them?
And then the Electoral College came forward and made liars out of my carefully recruited online community. The Electoral College was all “Actually there are a lot of Barbara’s, Michelle. They live in all the places and their votes are as big as yours.”
The Electoral College was a real asshole that year, wasn’t it? Ugh.
The election of 2016 was a gut punch for me. I came to a lot of unfortunate realizations as I passed through the birth canal of reality, which sounded pretty much exactly like his SNL sketch. I laughed so uncomfortably with the embarrassing realization that I was that clueless white girl. #Facepalm.
I would spend the next year in a lot of weird places. I was affected, y’all.
First, I waited patiently for the authorities to identify the technical glitch and instate the proper winner a la Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway at the 2017 Oscars: “Wait. Wait, sorry. What we meant to say was Hillary Clinton. I’m so sorry Donald, this embarrassing.”
When that didn’t happen, I moved to anger. I read stuff and watched stuff that encouraged me to stay angry. I took my daughter to the Women’s March to lock arms with our people. I went home reassured and inspired: we’re still out there and there are a lot of us. Phew.
That felt really good until I opened Facebook again the next day. #NotMyMarch was the new hashtag for women who clearly hated their reproductive rights and enjoyed being raped. I couldn’t get rid of these damn Barbara’s.
Understand that I am logically aware of how irrational that is. This essay is dripping with sarcasm because I know. At the time, however, my heart just wanted everyone to be fundamentally and emotionally supported in this society. I couldn’t imagine how someone could prioritize anything else and still be a good person.
It’s very difficult to separate yourself from thirty years of ingrained moral code to understand that a different code might exist for a different human being, and that they might believe as strongly as you do that this is what good people do in their world.
My brain was starting to realize things, the strongest of which was that I couldn’t keep living like this. I got to this upsetting place by lying to myself and I what I really needed was the truth.
Who are these people who stuck me with this leader? I changed my mind; I’d actually like to know all about them.
Bring me to Barbara, I want her to tell me everything.
Continued in Part Two: Click Here
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