When I was living in Philadelphia, I knew I lived in a liberal bubble. And I was more than fine with it.
Some people say it’s important to be around people with “diverse opinions.” Believe me, our opinions were diverse. They differed on whether we liked the second-grade teacher, whether bike lanes should have barriers, and whether Beyonce was better than Lizzo. In all seriousness though, we weren’t robots. We had plenty of eye-opening conversations and debates about the death penalty, police reform, veganism, school choice – the understanding of nuance and being able to change my mind when presented with new information is something I pride myself on.
However, I don’t believe I was missing out on any relevant perspective by not having neighbors who differed in opinion about whether trans people had the right to exist. I was acutely aware of how many people wanted me to be forced into Christian nationalism – or exterminated for being Jewish. I didn’t need them coming over for brunch to feel that my worldview was complete.
But now that I have been living in a small town for over a year, I am surrounded by THOUGHT DIVERSITY. There has been a large “Let’s Go Brandon” flag staring at me from across the street for the past nine months as décor. A Capitol insurrectionist ran for our school board last November AND DIDN’T DO TOO BAD. The neighborhood Facebook group is filled with people who were appalled by the local Pride Parade. THERE ARE MANY THOUGHTS AND THEY ARE DEFINITELY TRAVELING FROM PEOPLE’S BRAINS OUT OF THEIR MOUTHS.
Of course, I have been fortunate to find my people. Social media makes it easy to know what’s what and so do furtive glances at children’s birthday parties. I also understand that my children will become friends with whoever they like, and if those kids have Trump-supporter parents, there’s nothing I can or really wish to do about it. We can keep it cursory and civil and I will certainly not judge a child by their parents. (However, if I learn that these kids are delving into white nationalism themselves that is certainly another story.)
But overall, it’s been fine. I know that 40-50% of the people in this town are conservative and literally disagree with me on almost everything I hold near and dear to my heart. I also know when to keep my mouth shut for the sake of sanity.
For instance, the other night over cocktails, a friend mentioned in passing that she hated our Democratic governor. There was no real context, and I didn’t ask for any because we were all having a good time and the subject changed fast. I know we agree on most basic core values from past time spent together and that she has specific niche issues she is passionate about that might color her views. Or maybe she just thinks he’s a dick. I think the Democratic mayor of Philadelphia is a dick. Anyway, I don’t know and it wasn’t the right time ask.
WHICH BRINGS ME TO THE DAY AT HAND:
As most things in this town do, it all started with my hyper-local town newspaper which runs a police blotter with subjects like “Man goes to police station to report that his Facebook was hacked.”
A couple months back, one of my close friends (of course) wrote a letter expressing frustration that town’s largest restaurant group (literally bought mid-pandemic by a large NY investment firm) wouldn’t support the very low-cost Pride sponsorship. Which is fine. BUT they capitalized on the packed festival which brought thousands into town with a themed Pride menu and décor. The letter, mind you, was NOT a call to boycott them, but a call-in that ended with “we hope you will support the event next year.”
Naturally, half the town went apeshit saying that “woke culture wants to hurt small businesses,” and a response letter in this week’s issue said that instead of celebrating Pride in June we should celebrate Jesus.
I came upon said letter moments after being introduced to a friend of a friend at the community pool. (Also, reading this newspaper at the community pool is the most townie thing one can do and I fully embrace this).
I turned to my like-minded friend and read the letter aloud to which she rolled her eyes (she happens to be a devout Christian but also liberal and nicer than me and knows she can celebrate Jesus every day while also supporting Pride). But her friend retorted something to the effect about, well, “woke culture wants to hurt small businesses.”
We disagreed over the intention of the original letter and I actually said the words “LET’S AGREE TO DISAGREE” and proceeded to lay back down on my chair. I genuinely don’t remember what was said next or by whom, but I know that it compelled me to remind her that the LGBTQ community is under attack.”
“By powerful politicians across the country and misinformed parents running for school boards.”
“Well, everyone is under attack. Catholics are under attack.”
“How are Catholics under attack?”
“Catholics are under attack for not wanting women to kill their babies.”
With that, I said I did not wish to continue this conversation nor sit with them any longer and took my stuff to move to another chair.
I was shaking and angry and didn’t want things to devolve any further and know I made the right decision to remove myself from the situation.
A few minutes later, she stood up and walked over to me and asked me if I would return to join them again, agreeing to disagree. I thanked her for the admittedly gracious attempt to smooth things over for the sake of civility.
She went on to tell me that not all conservatives were bad people and we should all just learn to get along. She felt that I was being intolerant of “people with opposing views” and didn’t understand why I couldn’t just let it go.
But I said unfortunately I could not agree to disagree as she requested because she was clearly voting and advocating for legislation that would directly harm me and my family and take away our freedoms.
I tried to explain what pro-Life legislation would mean for me and my family. I also tried to explain what anti-LGBT legislation means to me as a queer woman and also someone who wants her children and ALL children to be able to live and love however makes them happy. We talked in circles.
I said that we weren’t just clearly dealing with not just very different worldviews but two different sets of “facts.”
Other “facts” she stated in less than 20 minutes:
With all of this, I reiterated that we are not going to be friends. But, I said, of course, I will be civil. I told her I would never stop our kids from playing in the pool or leave a party because she is there or throw tomatoes at her house. But we are never going to be “cool.” And I’m not going to hang out with her while she spouts dangerous lies and misinformation that put me in danger.
Funny enough, my friend who wrote that original Op-Ed was sitting with me and I mentioned that since she had a different interpretation of his article she could ask him about it. She said, “I know who he is and I don’t appreciate you doxing me.” I do not know what she thinks doxing is. I HAVE BEEN DOXXED BY MARJORIE TAYLOR GREENE I WAS INTRODUCING YOU TO THE MAN IN THE ADJACENT CHAIR.
The conversation ended with me reiterating that I am not boycotting those restaurants and just picked up food from there this week. She said, “Well, I’m glad you support small businesses.” I said, of course, I do! And I offered that maybe supporting small businesses is an example of something everyone agrees with regardless of political affiliation. She responded with, “Well, Murphy shut down all the small businesses.”
And I wished her a nice rest of her day.
I suppose I’m sharing this as an attempt to unpack what happened. I’ve had zillions of these conversations on social media where I am armed with facts I can literally link to. I’ve literally debated in real life with a Fox News contributor. But this is probably the first time I had to do this with another local mom…at the pool.
It wasn’t fun. It was shitty. But what choice did I have? I can’t just silently sit there while someone is being homophobic and spouting a bunch of bullshit. I can’t just ignore someone literally saying misinformation to my face. Silence is complicit.
I know that I will NEVER change these people’s minds. Like I said, we are existing in two separate realities. And I know that I have left my “liberal bubble” and will have to contend with knowing not a small amount neighbors would want my daughter to carry a child if she were raped. They believe my being bisexual is a sin. They want to privatize public education and force Christian prayer on Jewish children. But I’m supposed to just shut up and bring a casserole.
And I know this will just further her narrative of “the intolerant left.” And I don’t know how to keep explaining that NO, I am not tolerant of people who ACTIVELY WANT TO STRIP ME OF MY RIGHTS.
I can’t do it. It’s just too real right now. The bills are being signed, the right-wing parents are storming the school board meetings, antisemitism is at a boiling point, mass shootings are part of the daily discourse – I can’t just sit there.
I can’t shut up.