We're now smack in the middle of one of the most uncomfortable and awkward times of the year -- the election season. Every time you turn on the television, you're bombarded with ads featuring really annoying, urgent voices: "Bob Williams is not the kind of person we want in the Senate" or "Tom Ballantine in Washington? I don't think so!"
This country is divided right down the middle, and it's ugly, and I'm OK with that. When there's deadlock in the nation's capital, nothing gets done, which is good because most of the stuff your elected representatives want to do is pretty pointless. And I really don't care if my fellow men (or women) walk around seething in fury at the other 50 percent of the country. (Just think of the big hole in our history books if we didn't have the Civil War.)
I just don't want people to get up in my grill over politics. And these days, the place where that happens the most is Facebook.
I think of Facebook as a place where folks can get together, say something funny or interesting, and then move on, sort of like a cocktail party. Like at a party, you don't know half the people there, you don't want to talk about anything serious, and any conversation that lasts longer than two or three exchanges gets really awkward. If you were at an actual real-life party, and someone started venting angrily about their political views, everyone would slowly move away and pretty soon that person would be standing all by their lonesome at the dining room table beside the Buffalo chicken dip. Once they realized they'd crossed a line, they'd have to fake a frantic cell phone call from the baby-sitter so they could slip out and avoid the embarrassment.
Face-to-face social interactions are easier. You can usually get a good clue about someone's political persuasion just spying them across the room. It's like a political version of "gaydar." Men: Soul patch? Earring? Life partner? Democrat. Slacks instead of jeans? Nylon golf shirt? Republican.
Women are just as easy. Naturally graying hair? Shoes that look like they were made in a village instead of a factory? Democrat. Pearls? Hairspray? Republican. These subtle clues advertise our sentiments to our peers so we can avoid conflict. If you're not absolutely certain of someone's affiliation, you just avoid the subject.
On Facebook, though, it becomes tricky. You can have years of funny, lighthearted exchanges with someone, sharing pictures of your dog, "LOL"ing about those stupid greeting cards of Victorian people saying rude things, and pictures of their kids making cute faces. They'll post a picture of the beer they're about to drink, and you'll "like" it. Then along comes an election year, and they post their political views, and you find out they're complete idiots. (Before you get upset, be honest with yourself, no matter what party you belong to, Republican or Democrat. If someone's going to vote your way in November, they're pretty smart, aren't they? If they're not, well, they're pretty much an idiot.)
But there you are. Completely unprovoked, they go and say something that makes you cringe. Much like a real-life encounter, this puts you in an awkward position. You don't want to engage them in a dialogue because it's no fun explaining the way the world works to an idiot. But you don't want to engage them in further lighthearted conversation, either. And now, their pictures of sunsets don't look so pretty, their little jokes about how they hate their jobs aren't funny, and you suddenly find their kids to be -- and I know this isn't fair -- ugly.
I know, I know. A healthy political discussion is the lifeblood of our democracy. But it's pretty unlikely that you'll change your vote Nov. 6 because you saw an angry post from that guy five states away that you're not really sure why or how you ended up friends with on Facebook.
If we can all agree to keep our opinions to ourselves for just a few more days, come Nov. 7, we can go back to "liking" each other's kids and sunsets, safe in the knowledge that the verifiable idiots have all slipped out of the room and are on their way to a place where, as long as they keep hating each other's guts, they really can't do any harm -- our nation's capital.homemaking
Homemaking is a column about the people, projects and pride that make a house a home. Peter McKay, a Ben Avon resident, is a nationally syndicated columnist with Creators Syndicate. To see past columns, go to www.post-gazette.com. Contact him at www.peter-mckay.com.