Today I went to the post office and I ended up being there for quite a while because I used the wrong envelope and I had to start over. I let people go ahead of me but by the time I finished my new envelope the line had not moved at all. Someone was getting a passport, apparently a very exacting and time-consuming task. If you ever get behind someone filling in passport paperwork and having it checked over you might as well leave, do another errand and then come back. There was one other clerk but she had an Aussie gentleman with very complicated insurance and packaging issues. So we stood in line. (At least we had a counter to lean on.) We began to discuss our pets who are, apparently, all spoiled rotten.
As our wait continued we began to discuss the conditions that were keeping us waiting. We were nice and did not try to make anyone feel too badly. The man next to me in line knew that the desk was one clerk short because the missing clerk was his wife. She had a vacation day. We were pleasant and civil and just chatting. But it was primary day so I mentioned my anxiety as I waited to find out the results of the voting. I mentioned that I was looking forward to seeing Hillary Clinton win the New York primary. I was hoping people would pipe up and say who they would like to see win.
I know that politics is not a topic that is supposed to be discussed in polite company. But I, of course, can’t help myself. I wanted to know what people were thinking on this primary day. Sadly I believe it has become more difficult for us to discuss politics than ever. We should at least be able to talk about what we think we know about the candidates and where we got our information.
However, as soon as I said Hillary’s name a woman down the line made a sour face and said Hillary is a liar. Now I don’t think this woman knows Hillary personally. I could not really ask where the woman was from, although she had an accent, because as soon as I said Hillary’s name she made that disapproving prune face. If she came from another country maybe Hillary did something there that had upset her. After all, Hillary was the Secretary of State. I tried to probe gently, because I couldn’t accept an insult without some kind of backup, but the woman just repeated that Hillary is a liar.
Perhaps Hillary Clinton is a liar, after all everyone says she is, but I just tried to argue that the only way we know about Hillary is through the media and that it is always important to consider the slant of the particular media that is supposedly offering evidence against Hillary. When I have traced many of the “proofs” back to their source I have found the media to be right wing media. I would bet that the main source of news for this woman was FOX news. I will never know if that is true though.
The woman made an instant decision to dislike me because I had an opinion about Hillary Clinton that did not agree with hers. I would have loved to listen to the reasons why she had concluded that Hillary is a liar. I would have loved to share my reasons why I do not believe Hillary to be quite the monster that the media paints her. But the conversation was over and it was over with rancor on the part of one of us and dismay on the part of the other. Everyone else in that long post office line (we were there for about half an hour) said not one peep either during or after the exchange.
I can’t help thinking that it is sad that we can’t talk about politics at all in our free society, at least with anyone whose opinions differ from ours. People have chosen their favored media outlet and are not the least bit curious about what other media outlets have to say. We no longer take in all sides and try to make sense of all of the evidence. We make up our mind and any attempt to offer another point of view meets with a stone wall of anger and defensiveness. I know this has probably been true of every society from time to time when passions run high and answers are tough to come by, but it’s a shame and I hope such inflexibility disappears and that we will be able to try to analyze and decide important cultural matters with some sophistication and a spirit of mediation at some point in the near future.
By Nancy Brisson