I recognize that many people in our faith do not align with me politically. I do, however, have a great support system of “Mormon Liberals,” so that I have become more comfortable talking about my political values everyday. I have taken this new courage and began posting some of my views on the internet. So in order to be a little funny, a little scandalous and mostly to express my support of Obama AND my religion, I posted a picture of my bumper sticker that says, ” I am voting for Obama AND I am a Mormon,” on Facebook. While I recognize that I was asking for a reaction from my mostly Mormon internet circle, I never imagined the amount of extremely hateful and dark responses I received. I got multiple messages telling me that I was so clueless because Obama was directly connected with Satan. Messages and posts about how Obama is Satan, and I personally ushered him into this righteous world. While I was entertained by these messages at first, the escalation of anger and personal attacks was completely unnerving and disappointing. It also makes me very, very cautious about being able to be myself online ever again. I wish these posts didn’t affect me but it hurts to see Mormons attack people this way and I can’t seem to shake it off. I mean it’s not every day a girl gets multiple “King Of Darkness” emails…
Any advice on wanting to be free and open to post and explore my political ideas on the social media sphere without being dragged into a dark place by the same people I share so much respect and love for?
Oh, dear. I’m sorry.
Look, our Mormon Republican brothers and sisters are really anxious right now. They love Mitt Romney, and they believe in him fiercely. They believe he can fix the Great Recession by cutting taxes and deregulating industries. They truly worry that the US has lost its place as global superpower, with devastating consequences for democracy. And he reminds them of their most effective Stake President ever. It truly sucks to see him not only losing, but getting piled on by the media as well.
And yes, sometimes a few of our brothers and sisters get so stressed out they turn to their religious vocabulary to express their frustration, and so out come the “Gadianton Robbers” and the “secret combinations” and “Satan’s plan” and “weeping, wailing, and gnashing of teeth.”
They’re not the only yikes-worthy ones. Political talk in this country has gotten extremely polarized and hurtful. Right now, somewhere in the deep dark recesses of the internet, there are places where people are saying deeply cruel things about Mitt Romney and directing rhetorical flamethrowers at anyone who would even consider casting a vote for him. There are Facebook pages aflame with anti-Romney fervor, where you’d be roasted alive just for saying that you were LDS.
How did we learn to talk to one another this way?
Lots of reasons. A twenty-four hour media cycle that rewards bad behavior. Feelings of powerlessness. Global political and economic realities that defy easy understanding and easy answers. Internet sites that allow people to make cruel comments behind the protection of anonymity. And a bifurcated political culture that leaves us too often talking only to people who think like us.
But none of this makes it okay.
You owe it to yourself and to every Mormon who cares about the grassroots health of our community to kindly but firmly respond to the folks who sent you messages of doom and damnation just because you’re voting differently. I’ve seen too many Mormons who faced with this kind of fire draw back into their shells or abandon ship altogether, which is unfortunate because it allows people to escape accountability for the fact that such talk is indecent and intolerable.
If you don’t stand up, who will? You’ve got to tell them. Send a polite but firm message letting the most aggravated Obama-is-Satan-and-so-are-you messagers know that they crossed the line. Tell them that you appreciate the depth of their concern, and that you support their right to vote for Romney. Tell them that you understand things sometimes get heated on Facebook. And then, tell them that however strongly they feel about the presidential elections it is not okay to bully you or other fellow Mormons on Facebook. That is not how friends and fellow Saints should speak to one another.
You may not change them. They may continue to rage. But you, you will become stronger.
And next time, yes, avoid posting something just to be “scandalous” or anticipating a “reaction.” Start looking for content that will bridge the gap between you and your more conservative Facebook friends as a starting place for dialogue. Perhaps try something by every liberal’s favorite conservative commentator, New York Times columnist David Brooks. (But wait until after the election. Even Brooks has been giving Brother Romney a heck of a time.)
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