The Line. Or Where To Draw It.

In case you were one of the lucky Americans who was living under a rock for the last week or so, Obama just signed the Healthcare Bill into law.

People are NOT happy about this. *SHOCK*

The discontent is filtering through multiple political affiliations, who are using the opportunity to exercise their freedom of speech and protest the new legislation. Which is awesome. We live in a country where that is possible, and where having an opinion that differs from that of the majority isn’t a death sentence.

This is NOT my political opinion on the situation, and up until this point I’ve refrained from any political commentary on this blog. Mostly because I was always taught that there are two things we don’t discuss- religion and politics.

(Which goes out the window when you find that you’re in a situation with someone who shares your ideals and with whom you can have an intelligent conversation regarding the above. But in the vast majority of social situations, talking about those things is NOT OK.)

Sunday, as we drove over to my parents’ for dinner, we were shocked by seeing that one of the houses on their street had their flag hanging upside down. Both Army Boy and I suspected that it was not an error, but more than likely a political statement in response to the upcoming vote.

Let’s get this clear: Nobody is more patriotic than someone who gives seven years of their life to the military. Or has done time in Iraq.

When Army Boy saw the flag being used in this way, he was fired up. He felt that it was inappropriate, and disrespectful to the symbol of our nation. He voiced this as soon as we were in the house, and also expressed that he’d like to go talk to the homeowner in the event that it was just a careless error.

According to the US Flag code, section 4 (a)- “The flag should never be displayed with the union down, except as a signal of dire distress in instances of extreme danger to life or property.”

While in Iraq, Army Boy was used to responding to this signal, as the Iraqis occasionally used it to signal to US troops that there was hostile activity in the area.

He and Dad went down to this neighbor’s house, and spoke with the homeowner. The man confirmed that yes, the flag was deliberately displayed this way to convey his “distress”.

“Is your family in danger?” my father asked, with concern.

“Yes, our whole nation is as a result of the legislation in congress blah di blah teapartycakes,” was his response.

“Oh no, sorry. You don’t understand what ‘distress’ means,” my Dad clarified. “You are just showing ‘disapproval’, which is very different. And very upsetting to this young man, who served your country in Iraq, and saw that same flag that you’re using to make a statement draped over the coffins of his comrades.”

The homeowner was appropriately humbled, thanked Army Boy for his service, and took the flag down.

Discussion over.

Until the “gentleman” decided to come run back and scream at my father and Army Boy for “upsetting his family” with the visit. He threatened to call the police.

To which? They calmly informed him that he was now off his property and that they no longer had to be polite about his disrespect. Dad suggested he get his finger out of their faces and walk away calmly. A call to the police would be pointless, because there were no threats made and there were witnesses. That he may want to be more thoughtful about the political statements he chose to make in the future because they WOULD affect his family. And that someone else would not have “questioned” the flag, but rather thrown it through his front window. With a Molotov cocktail.

The man backed down.

We had dinner, watched “Life” on the Discovery Channel and had a normal evening otherwise.

I’m writing about it because… because… I don’t know. It was disturbing, the level of crazy that the country reached this weekend. It was all over Twitter, and Facebook. People were spat on and called unimaginable names. FOR WHAT. Because of lack of education on an issue, differing viewpoints, and misunderstandings?

This brings me back to my original point. Part of our family is radically conservative, the other part is liberal. We don’t discuss it. It is part of being a family, where blood and shared history are more important than questions of political affiliation. I can respect that my family lives across the country, where different locations can lead to different views on the “big issues.” We keep in touch through various means, one of these being Facebook.

Since the last election, one of my family members has become more and more outspoken on Facebook. In the last month, the majority of her status updates have been political in nature, and this weekend she was in Washington with the “Tea Party Patriots.” Her status updates were bordering on fanatical, to the point where we sat down and discussed whether our family should continue being “friends” with their family. It was becoming upsetting, and causing feelings of resentment among all of us. While we have refrained from commenting on the current political climate in any way, she is totally unconcerned as to whether her opinions, to which she is completely entitled, could be construed as “in your face” to people of a differing viewpoint than she is.

Long story short- If she were not family, I would not be following her. My mom made the decision that she no longer wanted to be subjected to it on her news feed or status updates.

Here is where the catch-22 comes in. I personally am afraid of unfriending or blocking, because I don’t want to do any permanent damage to family relations by doing so. At the same time, I feel angry because she should be worried about the same thing, realizing that her family may be offended by her. She is unconcerned, so why should I be?

Has anyone ever had to make a difficult decision regarding politics or religion in combination with social networking, etc? We’re entering an age where “Freedom of speech” is living in a new dimension, and what is the proper way to handle it? Even if there’s no “right way”, what works for you?


8 thoughts on “The Line. Or Where To Draw It.

  1. As you are all too aware, I am a political girrrrl. However, I have 3 members of my family who are conservative and I make a point of never, ever, ever bringing up politics around them. I have even made others in the family drop the subject in their presence. Due to my status here in our little hub of the world, politics comes up in my presence a lot, but I won’t let it interfere in familial relations.
    It’s incredibly insensitive of your relative to do this. Are you close enough to this relative to send a private message and discuss it in a nonconfrontational manner?
    The upside down flag thing is horrifying. I can’t imagine what they were thinking. Under no circumstances is that ok. We are fighting two wars right now. How can people forget that so easily and act so carelessly?

  2. I don’t have much family to have this issue with, but I have come within milimeters of unfriending an old high school friend (I should!) for his obnoxious status updates. I wouldn’t unfriend a relative necessarily, but I wouldn’t feel bad about hiding her (your relative), she won’t know and you won’t be subjected to her personal rants. I am amazed at the things the GOP gets all riled up about. Abu Graib (sp?)? torture? not an issue… health care for their compatriots? and the fists come out and all manner of slurs start flying.

  3. Nicely written, Brooke. My feeling is that if I want to be drawn into a debate, I will. People that actively advertise their political statements are asking for confrontation, in my opinion. The nice thing about Facebook – you can hide that person’s status updates and exist peacefully in blissful ignorance of their rhetoric.

    It’s like anything with social media, if you’re reading it (whether it be an op-ed, a blog, or a Facebook status) as the author you have to be prepared for criticism. As the reader, you can choose whether or not to read it *and* if you do read it, allow that person their opinion without comment.

    Tough when it’s family/friends though, I know.

  4. Thank you all for your advice on the matter- I don’t know why I didn’t even think of “hiding” rather than the more absolute “blocking.” When things started to get political about a year ago, I was able to brush it off. At this time though, I know that she’s not particularly happy and quite possibly is using politics to gain attention, whether positive or negative.

    I’m lucky to have smart, classy blog-friends. 🙂

  5. I steer away from voicing my ardent displeasure at the power-grabbing socialist way of life loving – I can live the American dream but then I’m going to take it off the table and make it impossible for anyone else to do it it arrogant administration currently in office anywhere but in my own home… and here, just now… apparently. And yes, I did vote for him. I can no longer say that I’m not gullible. And I’m with that neighbor… our country is in distress and half the people don’t even know it… or care… which is all the more distressing. Though even I wouldn’t hang a flag upside down.

    My closest friend and I could not be on more opposite sides of the spectrum. We don’t discuss it and we love each other dearly.

  6. Very well written. I would not unfriend her, simply remove her from your feed. The flag situation is offensive. I have words to describe what I think of that man, but they aren’t suitable for your site.

  7. Pingback: Where I Talk About the SECOND Thing We Do Not Talk About « Txting Mr Darcy

  8. The vitriol coming from the right is so distressing. I, too, have a particular relative who I love dearly, but has recently taken to worship at the feet of Limbaugh, Beck and the other such hate mongers. I cannot abide racism and bigotry in anyone, beloved relative or not. It’s a matter of great personal pain to me to see what she’s become.

    This is a very thoughtful post. Don’t be afraid of expressing such views on your blog. It’s important to provoke this type of discussion. Especially now…

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