I’ve been an active participant in online communities since sometime around 2000/2001. I have made many friends (both online and IRL) over those 7-8 years and I’ve always managed to put an amount of cultural perspective on things. I grew up white and middle class in a small, backward, white, middle class neighbourhood in a small, backward, white, working class town in Canada. Many of the friends I have made online grew up in similar circumstances, but an equal amount grew up broke and poor in the US, UK and Canada. I understand that my experience of class and privilege is very different than some of my friends.
I have had an ongoing friendship with a man from Louisiana for a couple of years now. He lived in Germany when he was in the US Army and relocated himself to the Bay Area of California upon his discharge. After Hurricane Rita, he returned to western Louisiana to be closer to his family and to help them rebuild their lives and to rebuild his own after some devastating losses in California. He was (and I imagine still thinks he is) an anomaly in western Louisiana; a white, liberal Democrat living in a rural parish.
He sent me an email saying that after watching “Bowling for Columbine” he was going to get rid of some of his weaponry. We talked on the phone about how to make health care work for Americans. We brainstormed about immigration reform.
I should have known that all was not right with him when he responded to my firm statement about being a feminist with, "Aw darlin’, you don’t want to mix yourself up with those people." I stated that I was "one of those people" and if he knew and liked me then he had mixed himself up with "those people". He changed the subject.
Then Barack Obama ran for the Democratic nominee for president. He voted for Hillary. When she didn’t win the primaries, he announced to me that he was voting for McCain.
Because no black man should have power over the white race.
Stunned, I listened to him go off about how he knew that he wasn’t evil but his wife was going to work for slave reparations and the good southern white folk, who had nothing to do with slavery would be forced from their lands while the *n***ers* get their forty acres and a mule.
It was like I had been slapped in the face as he went on about the *uppity black women* he worked with thought that they were better than him now. I had to get him off the phone. I could not believe that he actually thought these things. I didn’t speak to him for a very long while.
I logged into yahoo messenger to see if there was an offline from a friend in England. Instead there was a hateful message from my friend in Louisiana telling me that he was disgusted that I, a foreigner, would meddle and interfere in the election of HIS country by trying to get someone who would destroy America elected.
I went over to Facebook and there was a message from him there as well telling me to stop posting things about Obama because I was disrespecting his voting choice. I had sent all my FB friends in the US a reminder to vote the day before. The application was through the Obama feature, but I had set it up so that it would just remind people to vote in a non-partisan way.
I told him that if he had a problem with me reminding him to vote and with me taking an interest in the administration of the country I will probably live in one day that was his problem, not mine and he knew what to do with his problem. He sent a reply back about how I know him well enough to know that he votes in every election so my reminder was somehow insulting, and he didn’t understand what I meant by "knowing what to do".
This person was my friend for a couple of years. This election brought out a side and a belief system that I can acknowledge exists but never accept in my life.
I told him that he had been insulting and ignorant and had revealed himself to be someone I did not and could not want in my life.
As much as the 2008 Presidential election has brought out the finest qualities and traits of the American people, I had no idea that the worst and the ugliest would hit so close to home.