Speaker (yes, I still choose to refer to her as that, just my personal preference :)) and Congresswoman (and one of my political heroes) Nancy Pelosi spoke the words in my subject line a year and a half ago, in reference to the debate over health care reform. But while I feel that saying is indeed very apt for that debate, I feel like it encompasses so many other aspects of politics as well. Namely the personal aspects.
On Friday afternoon, I was informed by a “gentleman” who called our offices that I am, and I quote, “a piece of shit who doesn’t deserve [my] position”.
Sorry for the language, but that was exactly what was said..in exactly the tone you are probably envisioning it to have been in.
The fact that I am blogging about it, some four days later, is probably evidence enough that it bothered me, does bother me. Not because I believe this person’s rancid words. (No, I am not perfect by any means..but I’d at least like to believe I am generally better than this complete and very angry stranger’s description of me). But because of the fact that a simple difference in point of view could provoke such a hateful reaction, again from a total stranger.
And he wasn’t even a “tea bagger”, either. I have to be careful how specific I get with the details in a public space such as this blog, but basically, he was one of the “Primary Obama!” crowd. A relatively small and ever evaporating constituency (I don’t mean to sound arrogant in saying that, but like the Jay-Z quote on my “About Me” says, “Men lie, women lie..numbers don’t”). But a very vocal one. To observe some spaces in the Internet/blogosphere and you’d think that the President had no base. They seem to hate him nearly as much as the Tea Party crowd. The only difference seems to be that these people hate Republicans even more..
..But back to the anecdote at hand.
I am “Office Manager” in my division at my internship, which means that one of my daily tasks is to “man the phones” in the office. Being a high profile political organization, you can imagine the variety of phone calls that we get. Most have been pretty positive overall. We do get some pretty offbeat requests and suggestions from time to time (including one caller who I swear was using one of those voice changer apps on Skype or another application like that–sorry I am rather technologically tone deaf when it comes to Skype and the like as I have never used it), suggesting that we scrap Internet job search applications (you might be asking how a political campaign or organization alone can do this..or even the President himself. I am scratching my head right along with you..) and answering my attempted interjections with a “What?” “What?”, everytime, lol. And yes, we’ve gotten our fair share of critical calls regarding the President. Which, as much as I may personally disagree, is fair enough. We live in a free country, with free speech.
But what happened Friday..crossed the line.
I answered the phone with my standard greeting (“Hello, Obama for America”). The guy’s first reaction was a snarky laugh, followed by “Well, no one is for Obama anymore..”
Then he launches into this tirade about how he’s traveled all over the country, using his “own goddamn money”, and “no one, not even Democrats will vote for Obama”. He based much of this on talking to “Democrats in Kentucky”, which–no offense to any Kentuckians reading this–I could have told him would happen as Kentucky never was and never will be Obama country..
He then proceeds to “beg” us to run another candidate. I politely thank him for his concerns and comments and wrap up the conversation as, quite frankly, we simply cannot spend more than 5 minutes on each call like this or the phone would be tied up for hours.
I then step out to run some errands that needed to be done. The call record shows that he called right back while I was out.
Then the phone rings.
I don’t even get a “hello” in before he launches into another tirade, accusing me of being “the rudest person I have ever done business with” and that he’s “trying to get Obama re-elected but I won’t help”. Uh…that wasn’t exactly what you had said before, buddy..I thought inside my head, though of course didn’t say aloud.
I again try to get words in edgewise, but he drops the “you’re a piece of shit” bomb on me, then hangs up.
His number was subsequently blocked upon my conversation about this with my supervisors, who reassured me that he was just one of “the crazies”, but it still stung. This might sound pathetic, but I was holding back tears in the coffee room (where I went to catch a break and kind of regroup after this).
This person doesn’t and never will know me, at all. We will (hopefully!) never even meet. And the incoherence of his statements alone should be enough to make me simply toss it aside and move on.
But again, “all politics is personal”.
I have , of course, been told off as a result of my politics many times over the years I have been politically active. I have, for example, been in more heated message board and Twitter arguments about the subject than I can count on one hand. But somehow, the more intimate communication source of the phone made it more personal to me in this instance. It’s like the vitriol was able to more profoundly invade my space and consciousness and subsequently, my feelings, because I was actually hearing this guy’s voice, it was actually directed at me, not latte_lib_86, or any of my other handles, though they are of course “me” too. But this, somehow, was different. I could not hide behind my computer screen or sugarcoat its effect on me with sarcasm or emoticons or LOLs.
Somehow, it felt more real. And perhaps inherently, more personal.
Don’t get me wrong-I am very passionate about my politics too. I probably would not be here in DC or have even created this blog if I wasn’t. And I have said my share of snarky and otherwise not so nice things about folks on “the other side”.
But I’d like to think I would not be reduced to calling a complete stranger “a piece of shit”, simply because their political views and outlooks did not match mine.
Or if I’ve ever felt compelled to, this would be the perfect “check yourself” moment.
I don’t mean to sound “emo” or otherwise regretful with this post. I LOVE my “position”, my time here in DC, and all the opportunities and privileges associated with it, the adventure itself. And I know this little episode cannot compare with the vitriol that is so often directed at President Obama, or Senator Kerry (I don’t imagine being referred to as”Lurch” or “Herman Munster” (though these folks need glasses! :)), or having the medals you earned while risking your life to save the men on your boat during Vietnam questioned as many on the Right so often did and still do, feels very nice, but somehow the good Senator keeps going..and going strong!) or even Congresswoman Pelosi herself (she tends to get it especially bad from these folks), all people I greatly admire and all people who have inspired/do inspired me enough to pursue this journey in the first place endure either directly or indirectly on a constant basis. But it is enough to remind me of the fact that “all politics is personal”. And what we say and direct at others does matter.
Behind every political idea, ideology, etc, there is a person.
Whom vitriol can and probably does impact on one level or another.
I am learning to let it roll off my shoulders, like my political heroes apparently have done (or they likely would not even be in the field anymore, much less going strong in their respective capacities). But I frankly wouldn’t be human if it didn’t effect me. Or make me think.
Just some “food for thought”, as the (overused ) saying goes. Even re-hashing, much less devoting a blog entry to this incident probably feels like a waste of space to most reading this, but this blog was meant to document the journey, the ups and as well as the downs, the rewards as well as the lessons..
*steps off soapbox, :)*
More to come soon!