Sunday, January 22, 2017

Politics in the U.S.A (part I)

Many years ago I went to a football game in Buffalo, NY, USA, to see my favorite team, the Buffalo Bills.

I was there as a fan of the home team, and my boyfriend-of-the-time and his friends were there as fans of the visiting team, the NY Giants. We all wore our team jerseys, sweaters, and hats. It was very cold, and when the wind blew through the upper deck seats, it made you want to put down your oversize flag and cover your nose with your mittens. I remember many things about that day; the enormous electronic billboard blinking brightly the words, "DE-FENSE! DE-FENSE", how people around us would leap into the air and time seemed to stop, when our side caught a pass and a touchdown was happening right before our eyes. I remember that the guy sitting in front of us would throw his arms wildly as he cheered, nearly knocking into me, my chicken nuggets and cup of dip.

I also remember how the people around us treated my friends, the Giants fans.

The guy in front of us, I noted, had a ton of energy. He would yell and scream, "take that, suck-AH", pointing in my friends faces when the Bills scored points. He made rude gestures at my friends, laughed at them, and called them colorful and descriptive names. As the game went on, the better my team did, the more raucous he became. Then, three hours later, the game was over.

As the people around us stood and we packed up our things, this guy sitting in front of us turned around and looked at my friends. He calmly said, "Hey, good game man. Be safe." He reached out his hand and one of my friends shook it. Then we left.

Just like that, all of the anger, all of the hatred was gone. Everyone laughed and nobody's feelings were hurt, because after all, it was just a game.


What does this have to do with politics?

For several months leading up to the recent Presidential election, me and most (but not all) of my friends and family chose sides. We were either on team 'Red' (Make America Great Again! TRUMP!) or on team 'Blue' (Hillary! Bernie! Not-My-President!). I voted for Hillary.

I'm trying to be out there, doing the 'empathy' thing, trying to see both sides of a situation.  I just find it really, really hard (much harder than I've found any other empathy situation so far) to understand someone who is proud of voting for Trump.  As 'Ms. Empathy', I know I need to do it; but it's definitely been a challenge.

As an example, I was standing on the street the other day, waiting for a bus with my children. I heard two women joking nearby as they waited with their kids. I wasn't trying to 'listen in' but they were talking very loudly, and smiling, looking happy. "You know what I saw the other day," one said to the other. "I saw a sale on Amazon, for toilet paper with Hillary Clinton's face on it. I wanted to buy it but by the time I put in my order, it was sold out." The other one laughed, slapped the first one on the back, and then made a poop joke that was more appropriate for grade school.

I got the joke. It was supposed to be funny. I understand that not everyone has the same ideas about how to raise kids and what's appropriate to say in front of them (or not). What I had trouble comprehending was how public they were about it. Why was it okay for them to make such mean comments? I don't understand why it's suddenly socially acceptable to say mean things about other people in public. When did that become 'okay' and 'normal'?

Later, I thought that perhaps it's because they feel it's just like a game, and they are the fans. If it's a game, then it's okay to behave this way. They chose their team and I chose my team, and we're down to the final seconds. It's easy to pretend that we can say what we want, because once the game is over, of course, nothing that we said before will matter. We can just shake hands and move on.


For the next post, I decided to stop being in the audience and to actually talk to someone on the other side. To hear and listen to what they have to say, and to try to understand. That's my job, after all.


(to be continued)

Link to Part II