You are voting for WHOM?
March 25, 2011 11:40 AM   Subscribe

Help me deal with personal repercussions of politics.

As the presidential elections approach in my birth country, I'm beginning to see all these status updates, emails, etc. regarding candidates, and have found out today that the second round will very likely be between the people who, in my opinion, are terrible, terrible choices.

There are two things I have trouble dealing with...

- Friends and loved ones who are planning to vote for (in my view) immoral candidates.

- A sort of crazy crisis I'm suffering right now, knowing that a person who has publicly supported genocide may be the president of my beloved country. By crisis I mean I just threw up and went into shaking fits.

I am seriously having issues keeping my cool, and at the same time I almost feel my heart break that people I love are supporting these kinds of candidates (and their actions, I can safely assume)

How can I cope with this? What do I do if somebody I completely hate wins the elections?
posted by Tarumba to Human Relations (27 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
 
It might help if you told us which country you are talking about.
posted by Flood at 11:45 AM on March 25, 2011


Response by poster: I thought it would be more objective advice if I kept it confidential, I am trying not to let this become a politically charged thread.
posted by Tarumba at 11:47 AM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


Probably the best advice any of us can give you is to see a therapist about this.

If the results of a primary election, or a political link or status update you happen to see on Facebook, are leading to episodes where you vomit and lose control, that is a very serious issue that must be addressed. When I say "issue," I mean it's a psychological and/or psychiatric and/or medical issue, not a political issue.

Reality check: politics is always, always going to be a fairly sleazy, immoral business. And it's always going to be going on everywhere in the world. You have to find a way to live a productive, peaceful life despite these facts.
posted by John Cohen at 11:51 AM on March 25, 2011 [6 favorites]


Response by poster: I live a (mostly) productive, peaceful life. I should point out there aren't episodes. this just happened to me for the first time ever.

I am trying to figure out how to continue my friendships and family relationships with people who are so completely different from me, in a core sense. I know politics are sleazy, but it still affects me to know my country may fall in terrible hands.
posted by Tarumba at 11:59 AM on March 25, 2011


If the results of a primary election, or a political link or status update you happen to see on Facebook, are leading to episodes where you vomit and lose control, that is a very serious issue that must be addressed. When I say "issue," I mean it's a psychological and/or psychiatric and/or medical issue, not a political issue.

Caring about politics, even a lot, does not qualify as a mental illness.
posted by randomname25 at 12:03 PM on March 25, 2011 [11 favorites]


I am trying to figure out how to continue my friendships and family relationships with people who are so completely different from me, in a core sense.

You know what American Thanksgiving is, right? When my relatives, who are basically good and decent people start talking crazy Republican death panel talking points at the Thanksgiving table I just politely change the subject. My country is in pretty sad shape, but other than cut off contact with your family and friends what's the alternative? Also, your birth country, as in you no longer live there?
posted by fixedgear at 12:04 PM on March 25, 2011


Best answer: Here is what you can do:

Do something about it.

Don't just update facebook. Do something concrete, right now, today, to affect the outcome of the election. Whether it be donating money or going home and campaigning or demonstrating at the embassy. Do whatever you can do to take control of the outcome.

Be the change you want to make in the world today.
posted by empath at 12:04 PM on March 25, 2011 [7 favorites]


Remind yourself that in reality, in your day-to-day dealings with these people you like, they aren't like that - at all. Think about the many things you agree on with them, whether it be love of family, love of education, love of food. You have so much in common with these folks!

As far as the election goes, you can advocate for the lesser evil in your small way, vote if you can, and then hope for the best - that's all most of us can do. Good luck, it's a very tough place to be in!
posted by ldthomps at 12:05 PM on March 25, 2011


Look, you said you're in a "sort of crazy crisis," meaning you "just threw up and went into shaking fits."

To me, that paragraph is what the whole question is about. Everything else is strictly secondary.

Hence, my response: "If the results of a primary election, or a political link or status update you happen to see on Facebook, are leading to episodes where you vomit and lose control, that is a very serious issue that must be addressed" -- by seeing a therapist.

So, now you're saying that's not necessary, why? Because I used the plural "episodes," whereas it's just been one episode so far? I'm sorry, but I think just one such episode is reason enough to see a therapist.

Obviously you don't have to agree with me and you'll make your own choices, but I don't see how you can minimize this part of the situation.
posted by John Cohen at 12:07 PM on March 25, 2011


Upsetting things are upsetting. On the day that I found out about the earthquake in Japan, I cried and hid in my room for a few hours.

I think it's okay to be upset. It shows that you're engaged in important stuff. Give yourself time to be upset, guilt free, without action. Then, when you get used to the situation, figure out what you're comfortable doing in terms of political action. This might mean respectful conversations with your loved ones, or some sort of more direct action--giving money, that sort of thing.

Give yourself time. It'll be okay.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 12:11 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Response by poster: John I appreciate your opinion, and I see what you mean. I think I may have expressed it badly, though.

I am from a very complex country. I have seen death, abuse and bad, bad cases of racism and social injustice. It is the remembrance of this violence that makes me physically ill. I think many people, if they were exposed to similar situations, would react the same way.

I will make an effort to calm down, and really, thank you for pointing it out!

On the other hand, however, I am interested in knowing how you and other mefites deal with these HUGE issues, being tiny individuals. I also would like to know how you love and appreciate people who are completely different from you.
posted by Tarumba at 12:15 PM on March 25, 2011


A lot of people choose to withdraw from political engagement. You just block it out and fill your time and mind with what's precious to you.
posted by Paquda at 12:17 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Best answer: Things that help me, sometimes:

(I'm fairly politically engaged in labor and immigration activism; I've had friends go to jail on nonsense political charges and currently a bunch of folks in my social circle are in this situation. This isn't the same as electing a president who has supported genocide, but it's been fairly intense in the past few years here.)

1. A plan - I have several worst-case scenario plans of varying degrees of seriousness going all the time - going abroad to work, moving to a shack on my cousin's land; selling everything and moving to a cheaper place. I try to have plans in place for what I'll do if I am subpoena'd and lose my job because of missed time, what I'll do if a close friend is in jail, what I can do to protect the people I'm responsible for.

2. Fully acknowledge the presence of evil. There are political figures and their allies who are evil. There are laws that are evil, not mistakes, not accidents. I don't need to apologize for or sympathize with, for example, the people who want to destroy general medical assistance for low income families, or who cover up for rapes and shootings of civilians in the Middle East. These things are not part of normal political give and take; they are not legitimate; if they are spuriously "legitimized" in an election, something wrong has happened.

3. Set boundaries. I will not make nice with rapists or open racists (and there are plenty around here). If I have to speak to them in my day to day life, I avoid anything except what I need to do to protect myself--ie, I can't be rude to the Islamophobe who is a super senior person here at work, but I will not make nice conversations with him.

4. I've found that lately I think a lot about people who lived through the collapse into European fascism--the Weimar intellectuals in particular, because Weimar has always been an interest of mine. I remind myself that these bad times--and they are terrible, worse than anything I've ever known--are not new, that there is a historical link between me and that group. I think about all the minor unsung left journalists, writers, union workers and activists who have gone before me and I find it comforting that other ordinary people found the strength to carry on in terrible times.

5. I take breaks when I need to. If I need a week off from the news, I take it.

6. Honestly, I try to figure out whether my friends and loved ones are dupes, desperate or greedy and racist. (In a normal political climate, I would not feel this way. Even when we elected Jesse Ventura, I didn't have particularly strong feelings about the sillies who voted for him. Or the first time Pawlenty was elected, when no one really knew what he was planning. But this past one, where it was Emmer the openly racist buffoon versus [plutocratic democrat, meh] Dayton...I can forgive someone for being ignorant or scared, but not for being racist or greedy. Accept that sometimes politics changes your opinions of people forever and that when the political situation is serious enough, you can't bracket politics out of your daily interactions or out of your family. My nebulously conservative relatives? Sure, fine. My gleefully Muslim-hating relatives? Never again.

7. Accept that at certain political moments there are right and wrong choices, and you can be making the right one even if a lot of other people disagree--in many situations compromise is politically healthy, but not in grave cases. This does not mean that you think you are a special perfect snowflake or infallible. (There are many political situations where differences aren't morally fraught, particularly--as in, I thought it was silly to give a tax rebate back in the nineties and spend our state surplus instead of saving it, but I don't think there was anything wrong about taking the opposite view.) Believe in yourself.
posted by Frowner at 12:19 PM on March 25, 2011 [20 favorites]


Oh, I'll add that the one thing above all others that calmed me down over the past year was simply reminding myself every time I got upset, "okay, the bad guys won. that's really true. wishing otherwise or freaking out won't change it." Just internalizing it, moving past mourning, bargaining, denial, all that stages-of-grief stuff, has helped a bit.

Again, I say this as someone who spends a lot of time around immigrants and is seeing people get attacked and deported back to bad situations, who has close friends who are super-dependent on state medical care and likely to lose it, etc etc. The utterly preventable wrecking of the lives of the vulnerable that is being done right now is terrible. It's frightening to me, too, because I know that I am no longer sheltered as I was for so long by being educated and holding a decent state job.
posted by Frowner at 12:24 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Best answer: It may be helpful for you to read some things written by peaceful people who have witnessed and lived through horrible things and somehow remained whole and even joyful. Thich Nhat Hanh comes to mind (as he often does), a Vietnamese monk who was exiled from his country for decades for advocating peace, and then just in recent years welcomed back with open arms just long enough for his country to be removed from the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom watchlist before it resumed its persecution in earnest.

His poem "Please Call Me By My True Names" acknowledges the potential all of us have to act peacefully and violently, to be compassionate and selfish, to be guided by love or by hate. Sometimes the only thing you can do is be an example by your own words and actions, and sometimes, as in the case of Thich Nhat Hanh, your example can reach many thousands of people. Maybe not the people who you are thinking of now, but the people you will encounter throughout your life.
posted by headnsouth at 12:27 PM on March 25, 2011 [2 favorites]


Otherwise good people can make really shitty decisions sometimes. Make your opinion known, but know it's not likely to change their mind.

I mean any evil leader of the people who committed atrocities did so with the support of at least some of the populace. Why this happens is something psychologists have studied for a long time...for example, the Stanford Prison Experiment done by Dr. Philip Zimbardo. Are these people evil? I doubt they all are, some are being manipulated into choosing something wrong in exchange for a chance to survive or thrive.
posted by inturnaround at 12:32 PM on March 25, 2011


I have seen death, abuse and bad, bad cases of racism and social injustice. It is the remembrance of this violence that makes me physically ill. I think many people, if they were exposed to similar situations, would react the same way.

This is called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, and is a real thing. If your loved ones' facebook status updates are triggering post traumatic stress, you basically have two choices:

A) stop exposing yourself to the trigger - whether that's avoiding facebook, hiding certain people until the election is over, or outright de-friending the worst offenders,

or,

B) see your doctor or a therapist about getting treatment for the root cause, which is likely PTSD.

FWIW, I de-friended a number of people during the 2008 presidential elections here in the US. I quite frankly got sick of the disgusting racist garbage some of them were spouting. And then I realized that many of the worst offenders were people I was only nominally connected to (childhood neighbors, former coworkers). So I got rid of them. If this is a possibility for you, I would definitely recommend it.
posted by Sara C. at 12:41 PM on March 25, 2011


Tell them they're wrong, and why. There is "respecting someone else's opinion," and then there's "supporting genocide." If this has upset you this badly, you may really need to separate yourself from these people -- but you owe it to yourself and them to tell them why.

HOWEVER -- I would HIGHLY recommend seeing a therapist first. I'm taking you at your word about things in your birth country being as bad as you say, but one person's genocide is another person's "we arrested five drug smugglers but one died in a shootout." You need an outside perspective with SPECIFICS.
posted by scaryblackdeath at 1:02 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


I am trying not to let this become a politically charged thread.

Problem is, it's relevant. How you should do with this depends on how grounded in reality your thoughts are.

It's okay to cut ties with people who have such different worldviews that you don't think you are compatiable anymore. But it's worthing questioning if your views make sense- really, very little truly merits "shaking fits" at the mere mention of it. Do you actually believe your loved ones are "supporting genocide", or is it possible they don't see the circumstances the way you do?
posted by spaltavian at 1:12 PM on March 25, 2011


*How you should deal with this, I mean
posted by spaltavian at 1:13 PM on March 25, 2011


Best answer: Tarumba, I don't know what country you come from, but as a Pakistani, I can empathize with feeling sick to the stomach that people you know may be voting for someone utterly revolting. So, what I tend to do is:

1) If they're talking about it on Facebook, I call them on it, politely, explaining why I disagree. If it's an issue on which there is a fair bit of comment on Facebook, then one of my status updates is likely to be about it, stating my own position in no uncertain terms. The most recent example I can think of is when the governor of my province was assassinated by someone who thought of him as a blasphemer and an awful lot of people were celebrating the assassination.

2) If it's in a private conversation, I tend to be a little gentler, but also to take more time. (With Facebook, I feel like I'm talking to more than just the person who I am directly responding to, so I tend to be more forthright there.)

3) Most of my adult life has been spent being a teacher in my own country. The kinds of problems that you are talking about are huge, society-wide problems. I don't see short-term solutions to them, so I do what I think is most likely to have the biggest impact in the long run.

4) When all of these are not sufficient to hold down the bile that threatens to choke me, I find like-minded folk from my own country, and we drown our sorrows in poetry and good conversation, with the knowledge that these are meant to simply get us through the moment, till such time as we are ready to pick ourselves up and put that next foot forward.
posted by bardophile at 1:16 PM on March 25, 2011 [6 favorites]



I am from a very complex country. I have seen death, abuse and bad, bad cases of racism and social injustice. It is the remembrance of this violence that makes me physically ill. I think many people, if they were exposed to similar situations, would react the same way.


I think you're right about this, but only means that many people, if exposed to similarly traumatic situations, might benefit from the help of a therapist. Mental illness does not need to be heritable or chronic to be real, and there are no medals for toughing it out on your own. (Nor, in case it needs to be said explicitly, is mental illness evidence of some unusual weakness of character).

That said, there's no guarantee that a therapist would be helpful. You may have different views about mental illness and mental health treatment, or you may need something a therapist can't provide, like the companionship of like-minded folk from your own country, as bardophile suggests. Consider it an option, though not the only option, especially if these episodes continue. For what it's worth, my heart goes out to you.
posted by Marty Marx at 1:50 PM on March 25, 2011


Best answer: I gotta say, my Facebook experience got worlds more pleasant when I decided that some of the FB reconnections I made with people from back in the backwards little town I come from weren't worth the aggravation of maintaining. Family's one thing, but someone I've friended because we both had the misfortune of growing up in the same place, someone I barely spoke to when I actually lived there? I dunno. When I load up my Facebook, I want to have a chuckle at drunken pictures of my pals, exchange smartass comments, put parties together and look at dope links my friends put up. Ignorant, hateful nonsense from folks that otherwise wouldn't be in my life but for my conscious and deliberate use of Facebook tends to harsh an otherwise pleasant experience. So I unfriend the shit out of them.

Are you so invested in all of these Facebook relationships that you can't start cutting some of them loose? You ever unfriend someone obnoxious? Holy god, it's so liberating. Would you see these folks posting this stuff on a daily basis if you lacked a FB connection with them? Would your internetting be less stressful without them? Block them or delete them and cut this triggering content off at the source. Just try it once - pick the person you know the least and posts the most nonsense. Unfriend'em cold and clean without a word of explanation. BAM. Tell me you don't feel a little better knowing their nonsense won't show up on your wall anymore.

It doesn't sound like you'll be opting out of anything resembling a fruitful dialog in this case. And social media is a crap vector for enlightening political debate in the first place. It's been mentioned upthread, and I tend to agree, that you might find your own stress reduced if you find some means of concrete action for the good of your country - disprove to yourself this sense of helplessness and see if you don't breathe a little easier.
posted by EatTheWeak at 3:42 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Part of the question (or answer) has to be whether this is just a Republicans versus Democrats level of badness, or something more concrete like electing Hitler. If it's the former, you might be overreacting and might benefit from getting some help/perspective. If it is more like the latter, I'm not sure what you can do except be as vocal as you can with concrete facts.

It might help to ask yourself "what are the supporters of this person voting for?" Are they voting for what they think is a good thing, that you feel will have dire consequences, or are they actually voting for the badness? Are they voting for tighter border restrictions, or for a pied piper who will excise $[race/religion] from the country?
posted by gjc at 3:43 PM on March 25, 2011 [1 favorite]


Best answer: You have a right to feel the way that you do - I think most people cannot fathom feeling the way that you do about politics because any kind of horror in most Western countries is very abstract and indirect. It sounds like this is not the case in terms of the politics in your country.

So I find it fairly abhorrent that it has been suggested that you have a mental illness - I think quite possibly your reactions are justified given the situation.

Your friends and loved ones are planning on voting for people who you personally find immoral. This is possibly upsetting you so much because you feel hurt that people you love could possibly side with immoral people. This is an understandable reaction, but you cannot control who your friends and loved ones vote for - that is their decision. From there, you decide whether you want to continue having contact with them. That is the only decision you can make there. If you choose to remain in contact with them, you may have to deal with the fact that you might have less respect for them. If you choose to cut yourself off from them, then you will lose that interaction.

You are fearful that your country will fall into the hands of someone whose actions you don't support. This is understandable because you love your country so much and are concerned about the people and their safety. Your decision is then whether or not you should stay (if you are able to leave) should the elections have a result you don't want.

Those are the things you can control.
posted by mleigh at 3:46 PM on March 25, 2011 [3 favorites]


By crisis I mean I just threw up and went into shaking fits.

I am seriously having issues keeping my cool, and at the same time I almost feel my heart break that people I love are supporting these kinds of candidates (and their actions, I can safely assume)


I agree with some of the posters above that maybe you need to seek professional help.

Regardless of how you feel, there will always be people supporting people you do not support.

You can either:
1. Continue doing what you are doing...which kinda makes you very vulnerable if you are shaking and vomiting because of how someone else feels.
2. Stop caring.
3. Stop being friends who the people who support candidates you don't like. Make friends with people who only support who you support.
4. Seek professional help with someone who can get you to cope with this.

Good luck.
posted by hal_c_on at 1:18 PM on April 2, 2011


Best answer: Two things:

I think since human beings are the ones the write history, they often try to compose a coherent narrative that centers around a single individual, event, or cause. More times than not I've found that to be not entirely true. I take a very long and nuanced view that things that happen had a lot of precursors that nudged it towards that direction. There are multiple causes that could occur hundreds of years before anyone hand an inkling they were going to occur in that fashion.

So, this election probably seems like the center of the universe right now, but things like opposition party members and electorates do not disappear overnight. The election is just another conflict to be fought and in a couple years or 4, another one will be fought again.

The other thing is to ask why is this country your beloved country? From your profile it looks like you're living in the US. I'm not saying you should adopt the US as your country, but since you have a bit more of an international perspective, you can choose which country (if any) is your country of choice. I'm an immigrant, and I largely don't identify with my home country, because they drove my family (and others out) and did some very unpleasant things to those who stayed.
posted by FJT at 8:23 AM on April 8, 2011


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