Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Email, politics, friendships, n'at

So I have had an increasing problem with email, especially in this politically charged, what is it 13 days to go?

Because there's no tone of voice. There's no, "Hi, how are you," to gauge how the other person is doing before you practical joke them or tell them their faith hangs in whom they vote for. To put it another way, you have no idea that when they get an invite to your Tupperware party that they are broke broke broke.

Now, this is the part you have no control over. (You didn't know their kitty just died.) Yes, people reading emails need to chill too (Yes, SL, I'm talking to you!) (Okay, okay, okay.) But you do have control over your words. You do have control over thinking hmm, should I invite this person? Should I send this politically charged email to the person who will most likely disagree and be angry? Is it worth the heat? Sometimes it is worth it. But often, it is not. Often it drives a wedge.

Yesterday I spent most of the day in the ER. Yes, the Emergency Room at Shadyside Hospital. A dear friend drove me and sat with me. (Bless you, dear one!) I have some unpronounceable "itis" which is basically an inflammation of where the breast bone meets the rib cage. I was experiencing chest pain and shortness of breath. I feel better now, but yesterday was all kinds of uncomfortableness until I finally got to the pain meds. Recovery includes pain meds, more chiro visits, and warm compresses.

So I came home yesterday, exhausted, blurry, and I opened my email, at almost 4 pm. I had not eaten lunch. I was not in my right mind. So I opened an email from a dear friend who yes, disagrees with me on politics, among other things. When the email said "in this season of election" I thought it would be a prayer, because she is one of the most deeply spiritual people I know. But I mostly always open emails from her because she is a dear friend and remember, I hadn't had lunch and I'd been in the ER for over 3 hours. So to discover that it was a mass email saying I couldn't possibly be a person of faith for voting the way I was voting, I kind of shut down. I haven't yet deleted the email, but I will be deleting it very soon. The email, not the friend. I can't afford to lose her over this. She is a dear dear friend, whom I love. So I wrote to her this evening and said can we please not communicate until after the election? I hope I was able to write lovingly, but with email, there is always a danger.

Folks, these are phone calls, if you dare them. These are talks at a coffee shop if you live close by. Or, these are silences until mid November, or even longer, if you know there will be an impasse. These are not "I can't see you, (I'm writing things to the screen) but I have my ideas, so I'm going to spout them out." What are the three things you don't discuss in polite company? "Politics, religion, and money." Email, though it seems intimate, is polite company.

Let's be friends on November 5, whoever wins. My life (hopefully yours neither) will not end if the side I'm not voting for wins. I will not be pleased, but I will still live in my third floor walk up, I will still work at the library, I will still be related to people who voted opposite. People whom I love dearly, therefore, with whom I don't talk politics.

This is the first year I've really followed presidential politics, paid attention to the issues beyond the local scene. So I've been excited and GREEN. By green, I mean, I have talked to some people I should have stayed away from, and I have read articles that I knew would irk me. I have even posted things on FaceBook and gotten flaming (what my friend Heidi calls more heat than light) emails. This political piece is a learning process. My dear mother doesn't tell anyone who she votes for, doesn't talk politics. I wish I could be that way--but I am too excited to be in the issues and at work, frankly, most of us are on the same page. So at lunch, Marian (the Librarian) and I share stories. And at work, once we find out co-worker's allegiances, we pass on "oh look at that YouTube, or that website." But care is necessary. Be care full. Full of care. Because you may be tramping all over someone's American dream. And that, my friends, is not cool.

I still want to be friends with folks I know now after November 5, irregardless of their political leanings. I love my friends, even when I disagree with them. And moreover, I like having friends that don't agree with everything I say, because that is how I learn. I either learn that I believe more strongly in what I think, or that they may have a point, or that neither of us has a clue.

I do know this: I have great friends. I have dear relatives. Not all of them will be voting the same way I do on November 4. I cannot convince them. I will not disown them. I cannot. I must not.

So the next time you think about emailing someone even if it is your neighbor whose dog is driving you INSANE, think about tone. Think about how your email comes across to someone who is checking email after a day in the ER. Deep breaths. Deep breaths.

(This is one of those posts where I am writing to myself more so that to any of my dear readers. I need to learn what I am purporting to "teach.")


cuileann said...


Helen said...

You got THAT right. Would you believe my cousin didn't come to my mother's funeral because he is mad that I am not voting for his candidate? My brother and I came 2,000 miles to bury Mom where she grew up. Cousin lives in that town. We used to be best friends. I am very hurt and confused. This country has gone nuts.

Dani said...

Well said, my friend.

The only thing that irks me more than myths being emailed to me (that could have been quickly squashed with a quick Google search) is political emails with the intent of smearing a candidate. Want to send me real proven stats? I'll read them. Want to send me actual facts about a candidate (good or bad)? I'll take them into consideration when I vote. Do *not* send me propaganda!

I hope people get your message loud and clear.