The other day however, I noticed we were “followed” on Twitter by an account that had all the tell-tale signs of being a troll. Most noticeably, they had shared a meme listing 10 things that made all liberals cry. The list was as follows: 1) Guns; 2) Donald Trump; 3) Criticizing Obama; 4) The Constitution; 5) Flags; 6) Capitalism; 7) Fox News; 8) Prayer; 9) Patriotism; and 10) __________. The meme asked the readers to help identify the last item. As I studied the image, I couldn’t help but wonder if our political discourse would be more civil if we stopped reducing people to memes. After all, I am a liberal — a proud liberal at that — and quite frankly, that meme isn’t accurate for me.
1. Guns don’t make me cry. I am an advocate and volunteer for Moms Demand Action but that does not mean that I hate all guns. I grew up around guns. I own guns now. I am not uncomfortable around them and if you ask me, I’d say I am a pretty decent shot. People having a deep desire for common sense gun measures doesn’t mean that guns make them cry. Rather, it means that they may have a different interpretation of the role guns should play in our society and how we should treat them.
2. Donald Trump doesn’t make me cry. He makes me laugh. He makes me angry. He makes me want to step up to the plate and do better for my country because I believe he is woefully unqualified and frankly, incapable, of doing the job that our Nation deserves. But he does not make me cry.
3. I do love Obama. I admit. I’m truly proud to say that I got to vote for him twice. However, I have criticized him and it doesn’t make me cry to hear other people do the same. In particular, I had major issues with Obama’s drone strike policies. I believe that many of those policies put our nation at risk both now and in the future. Any Commander in Chief of the United States of America — including Obama — is not immune from criticism. In fact, thinking that a President is immune from criticism is a much bigger problem than taking issue with the choices a President makes.
4. I love the Constitution. It is complicated and beautiful. I carry a copy with me at all times. My copy is worn and contains lots of highlights and underlines. I sometimes will read something online that will pique my interest and I’ll spend hours diving back into Constitutional jurisprudence that I haven’t read since law school. The Constitution is amazing and while I may have shed a tear or two while studying for my Con Law final back in 2011, I can promise you that I revere the Constitution and greatly respect its authority in our Nation’s legal system.
5. The American Flag doesn’t make me cry either unless you count them being worn on Speedos of overweight elderly men. Who am I kidding? Even then you got to respect those who dare, right? I respect the American Flag as a symbol of our country. But to that end, I know it also represents parts of our history we may wish to sweep under the rug. For that reason, I can understand why people would want to protest by burning it even though that is an action I would never personally take. I also understand that it stands for freedom and that freedom, as defined by that dear Constitution of ours, means that most speech — even speech we disagree with — is lawful.
6. Capitalism is why I am employed and thus, it does not make me cry. I work as in-house counsel for a company that is publicly traded. Capitalism and a strong market means that our stock price rises and that my retirement is more secured. It means possible raises and bonuses that will hopefully translate into college for our daughter and maybe a vacation or two. Capitalism though, like any system, has flaws and I believe that some of those flaws can be addressed through regulations.
7. Fox News is a political-entertainment network. That’s fine. It doesn’t make me cry simply because I think some of their journalistic standards are lax. The same could be said for CNN or MSNBC. But like with everything, there is nuance. I don’t think that every show or every journalist at Fox News is bad. To the contrary, several are good journalists who I just happen to disagree with. I doubt however, that demanding high journalistic standards from the media I consume (or don’t consume) will ever make me cry.
8. Prayer has made me cry before — I admit. But only because I was broken, on my knees, and asking God for help. Shouldn’t prayer — at times — make us all cry? Prayer also has given me joy, strength, and courage. Nearly 3/4 of Americans are members of an Abrahamic religion. This is a large majority of Americans — too large to be comprised or conservatives or liberals alone. This means that regardless of background, Americans are by and large, praying people. Prayer emboldens me and sometimes, settles me down. I also understand that it isn’t everyone’s cup of tea though. And that’s fine with me too.
9. I am a patriot. A patriot is defined as “a person who vigorously supports their country and is prepared to defend it against enemies or detractors.” I love America. I love that my rights and freedoms don’t change with the season. I love that I can have opinions and that I can voice them without worrying about my family being targeted by the government. But enemies of our nation are not just foreign born but also domestic. Those enemies fight, not only with firearms and incendiaries, but with ideas and propaganda. As a patriot it is my duty to procure and defend an inclusive America for my daughter’s generation. Patriotism will never make me cry, but I fully believe it is a concept with many facets.
So you see — that silly little meme has me all wrong. And it probably has millions and millions of other liberals wrong too. And those memes I’ve seen that paint all conservatives as racists, uneducated, closed-minded rednecks are also wrong. Some of the people I love most in this world are conservatives and that’s okay. They aren’t out to destroy America any more than I am. In truth, I believe that most liberals and conservatives love our country deeply. I believe that most of them want to see our nation prosper and for her people to prosper alongside her. I believe that most of them want to see a peaceful world — one with fewer senseless deaths, one where less families and children suffer from starvation, and one where every country has the resources to care for its people properly. I believe that most liberals and conservatives are good people who work hard and who want others to be good, hard-working people as well. I simply believe that liberals and conservatives have different ideas about how to make any of these things happen.
And that’s okay — we need different ideas. We need multiple viewpoints. We need people to sit down, talk things out, experiment a little bit — see what works and what doesn’t and then to come back to the table and try something else.
What we don’t need is to stereotype each other. We don’t need to reduce our political differences down to memes or soundbites that don’t paint a full picture. We don’t need to further divide ourselves by considering an entire subset of human beings our enemy simply because their ideas about how to achieve a prosperous and peaceful society are different than ours.
My mom used to say that I would catch more flies with honey than I would with vinegar. Well, I think we would all do well to stop putting so much vinegar out in the world. Let’s fill our social media accounts, our communities, and our hearts with honey… and then see what kind of flies we start to catch.