This past Saturday I attended the Freedom Forum in Blairsville to hear from the 9th District Congressional challengers, the 51st District State Senate candidates and others standing for election. I am the grassroots Director for Congressman Doug Collins in Union County and was manning a table with various material from the Collins campaign.
Before the candidates took the stage an elderly woman, who I know casually, approached my table. I asked if she would like a Collins sticker and apparently that lit the fuse. “Are you kidding?” she asked incredulously. Did I know what a horrible human being Doug Collins is? Quickly it escalated to how uninformed I am. Then there were some veiled references to me being a closet member of the dreaded “establishment”. Finally I learned that my long deceased parents apparently did a poor job raising me. All the while my mouth is hanging open disbelieving what is coming out of this “lady”.
Eventually she stormed off in a huff.
Shortly afterwards a male senior citizen advised me that he had lost all respect for me based on my choice to represent the 9th Congressional District. I wasn’t sure how I could lose something I didn’t know I had. While not as animated as the female, the conversation was just as personal.
So when did we lose the ability to disagree without it getting personal? When did we lose the ability to disagree without being irrational? When did attacking differing beliefs become an effective strategy to influence those beliefs? When did my generation lose their manners and lower their standards to the point of this type of behavior being acceptable?
Politics is a contact sport and one needs a thick skin to play in the game even on the periphery. I suspect that some people are unable to rationally explain their choice of candidates and their only remaining strategy is to attack. The weak challengers in the 9th District do it all the time so why be surprised when their supporters use the same tactics.
At the end of the forum the woman sought me out and in a loud voice asked me three times if I listened and did I learn anything.
At that point I discovered that angry people really get really angry when you laugh and walk away.