Vox Populi

I hate talking about politics. Even talking politics to people with whom I think I might agree makes me edgy and nervous. And good luck to anyone who wants to wax poetic about things they don't know what they're talking about. I'll pull the eject cord on the conversation faster than they can say "and what they don't want you to know is ..." I think the reason I hate talking about politics is I hate arguing, and most political conversations I've ever experienced seem an awful lot like arguing. Both parties feel passionate about point A and it doesn't really matter if point A is abortion or Iraq or which knives are supposed to go in the dishwasher. I work hard to avoid arguments with people, if nothing else because I'm still upset about it long after the argument is supposedly over and that's generally bad for my health. There is a ridiculously short list of people who I can argue with, primarily the Puddin', and that's mostly because he and I have had many years to learn how to argue well (not that we argue often ... I suppose that's a side effect of arguing well is that it's effective and prevents follow up episodes).

The Virginia ballot this year made me particularly cagey. Everywhere in town, there were signs in front yards saying "Vote Yes to Marriage - One Man, One Woman" in huge black letters. Every single sign upset me. It upset me to the point that I wasn't sure what I would say to the person who walked out of their house if they had one of those signs in their yard, but I knew I would feel compelled to say something.

Long ago, I talked about a book called Gay Marriage that I had read. One of the key points Rauch makes at the end of his book is that making any changes about marriage law is something that has to happen on a state level in order to endure. So to see a ballot issue in my local (conservative) state is a very strange sort of good sign, at least in that it's better to be a Virginia voting issue than a national one at the moment. Then again, voting on anything if the voters don't understand the issue may as well be a ballot for adding sumptuary laws to the Constitution.

We were at an event this weekend and two of my friends started discussing politics. I could feel my stomach turn so I got up and fled. Part of me felt like I was a coward for leaving, because I don't think their ideas were well thought out. But that wasn't the time or the place to talk about it, and I could pretty much guarantee I would start crying in frustration within two sentences.

When I went to vote this afternoon, I walked with a purpose. I didn't want to talk to anyone there about the issues. I didn't want a piece of paper to help me vote any party line. I just wanted to place my vote (which felt more like making a wish over a dandilion given the conservativeness of my state) and go home. An old man asked me as I was leaving, "Are you interested in lower taxes, ma'am?" and I cheerfully replied, "not really, but thanks!" as my high heel shoes clicked across the pavement.

As I walked back to my car, there was a couple walking near me talking about the ballots on which they had just voted. The man sounded like Larry the Cable Guy and was slowly reading off the details of Virginia's proposed amendment #1 concerning marriage.

Larry the Cable Guy Man: " ... not between a brother and a sister ..."

Woman: "I know, I read it already."

LtCG: "... or a couple where one of the parties is married to someone else ..."

Woman (exasperated): "I know! I told you I already read it all last night. It means none of those people could get married. Why do you keep reading ..."

LtCG: " ... couples of the same sex ..."

Woman: "Why can't you just let me do it my way and you do it yours? I already read it all last night and I made a decision and I voted. I can't go back in there and re-vote."

LtCG: "I'm just making sure I understand what I voted for and what you voted for."

At this point the woman just sighed and they kept walking to their car. What struck me more than their conversation was that the entire time they were holding hands. I'd watched them walk into the ballots holding hands and then they were right in front of me still holding hands. Somehow, the fact that they were holding hands made it all seem okay. They obviously didn't agree on what they voted on, but they were still a team. Perhaps I need a new rule that if I plan on talking politics with anyone, particularly emotionally charged ones like marriage amendments, I should insist that they hold my hand. So that even if we don't agree, I can feel like somehow we're on the same team.