Knowing where you stand

A silhouette of a hand putting a ballot into a box.
Photo by Element5 Digital on

OK. Here we go…

Since I’ve been working at home, I have to admit, I haven’t been listening to the news nearly as much as I did when I heard it in the car, or on my CBC newsfeed. I have news anxiety, and sorry-not-sorry, I can’t get myself fully informed about some news events and still sleep at night. Yes, that’s a really privileged position to have. And yes, I’m going to continue to not watch things that I know will just give me anxiety attacks.
That doesn’t mean I don’t care, and I absorb these things in my own, cautious way. And I take action, sometimes, in my own way. But I find that lately, there are many people who have been posting on their social media really angry opinions about world (and sometimes National or local) events. “IF YOU THINK [this thing they’re angry about] IS OK, JUST UNFRIEND ME NOW BECAUSE I WONT STAND FOR IT”.

I get that they’re angry. I even, often, get what they’re angry about.

A friend posted an angry note about how you can’t be pro-choice and still want to control other people’s bodies. This statement, taken out of context from her note, could have been about any number of things. The abortion ban in Texas. It could have been the leader of the Canadian Conservative Party saying that he supports a woman’s right to choose, but he also leads a party that largely, does not. It could have been about medical assistance in dying.

I have many pro-choice friends, and they know, to the core of their being, that they are pro-choice. And NO ONE is going to tell them what they can and cannot do with their bodies. But my friend’s statement wasn’t about any of that. It was about mandatory vaccination.

And most of my dyed-in-the-wool Pro-choice friends are also Pro-science. Which makes them anti-choice on this one. You can’t be pro-choice and still want to force someone to do something with their body that they don’t want, like get a vaccine. I mean, sure, follow the science, and for the love of all that’s holy, please don’t inject yourself with bleach or horse de-wormer to protect yourself against Covid.

So I’ve been thinking about what it means to commit to a description of yourself. I’m Catholic, and I like to think I’m a pretty good (in general) person. But Catholics kill indigenous children. So can I be Catholic if I don’t have a personal bodycount? Of course I can. Catholics are also pro-life. So if I’m pro-choice, does that mean I have to hand in my rosary and renounce my Catholic roots? Nope.

We’re in the throes of a federal election here in Canada and a young man who was canvassing for our incumbent stopped by this week. “Can [he] count on your vote?” he asked us.

Can he, indeed.

Thing is, in our house, my gentleman associate always votes for a party. Doesn’t matter what level of government. Doesn’t matter who’s running in the riding or who’s leading the party. He’s not card-carrying, but he votes for his party.  I never vote for his party. Sometimes I vote for a local candidate. Sometimes for the leader of the party.

There are three ways to vote, swirling around in my head this round (just like there have been for the last few, if I’m being honest here). Vote for the leader that I’d want to be the Prime Minister, but he won’t win this round. Vote for the candidate I like, who’s a different party than the leader I like. Vote against the person who I don’t want to win with the person most likely to beat him (even if that’s not my actual “who I’d want” choice). Strategic voting is a bitch, and not a very satisfying way to vote, let me tell you.

But I digress.

The young canvasser looked a little disappointed when my gentleman associate said ‘Absolutely not’ at the same time as I said “Heck yeah!”

“Oh, a split house”.


The advanced polls have already opened. It could cause a rift in our household. I could rage about the things that his party believes that offend me. Or, I could respect that he’s a good, loving person who has his reasons, just like I know he loves me, if not my choice.

So yeah, I understand the visceral reaction one can have, and how it seems pretty black and white in the heat of the moment. But when it’s reducing people to name calling, I’m not OK with that. At some point before every election, I say to my gentleman associate, “Tell me why you’re voting for your guy”. I’m not looking for reasons to think that he (My guy, not his guy) is stupid for his decision, I’m trying to listen to his concerns and his worries and what he has to prioritize in order to not feel anxious about the next leaders of our country. And I try to share the same with him. And maybe he convinces me of something I didn’t consider before, or maybe he understands why I’m so mean on election night (and for a few days afterward, if I’m being truthful here) if his guy wins. And maybe I have to explain to some people why I feel like it’s risky for me to do something related to vaccination (or something related to not being vaccinated). And maybe that gives them some thing to think about. Use your words, friends.
You make your choices, and I make mine. And then, we either figure out how to get along, or we don’t.
Sure, you have every right to stand by your decisions (yes, all of us, regardless of what side of any issue you land on), but you have to also have to be OK with saying ‘If you’re not vaccinated, I don’t want you in my house at Thanksgiving, and I won’t be coming to your house for Christmas” and stand by that. And you have to be OK with someone not wanting to spend time with you because of your differing opinions.

I know this is going to be a polarizing one. But I’m not sorry, friends. I hope that none of my relationships are reduced down to a single data point. I know it’s hard to love someone who does things you find abhorrent, but you can love someone without loving everything they are or do. I watched an uncle and aunt continue to love and support their son, who was convicted of killing his wife and two kids. They didn’t support his act, but they still loved him. They died in their 90s and they never turned their back on their son, because that wasn’t all he was to them. So I know it can be done with grace – I watched it for my whole life.

So yeah, I can be a good Catholic that is horrified by residential school and horrified by abortion law in in Texas with equal vehemence who, walks over to the polling station with a fellow who’s vote will cancel out my own, and I still feel good about who I am.

The world is hard enough to navigate without turning our backs on each other. Be kind, friends.

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