On Internet Hate In An Election Year

Stepping away from my usual vegan posts, this is a political opinion piece. I realize posting this sort of blog will probably only get me more hate and backlash, but I find it so hard to sit by and be quiet. Especially since that is what all the haters want, as they interpret my silence as their “win” in the ever increasing bullying contest. But I can’t be quiet, and want to summarize what I have seen and been subjected to on the internet, as well as make a more pointed argument for why I think it is wrong. I also wanted to be as informative as possible, and therefore have attached hyperlinks to the various parts of my post.

Presidential election year: always brings out the best on everyone’s facebook, right? So I know the constant comments and posting of slander or supportive blogs and editorials is inevitable. I’ll first start by talking about my stance: I am a liberal on pretty much all the major issues. I believe in a woman’s rights to control her body. I believe in stricter gun control. I would like the government to do more to protect the environment and this world for future generations (even if I chose not to contribute to those future generations). I would love for the world to go vegan, but that’s not really something any current politician supports so I know that dream might be far-fetched. But naturally I want to support animal rights. I would like for the government to be more involved in controlling student debt. I think young people are being subjected to increasing and unsustainable student debt loads to acquire marginal careers. I think there is still an inherent racism in this country, though I acknowledge being a white middle class woman I can’t even fathom what this means to a black individual, I just know that I think it is unjust, and I want it to be eliminated. I think women are also discriminated against, if not, then why do women continue to get paid less than men in the same position, get offered less for the same credentials as a starting salary, get judged by others as “bitchy” or “cut-throat” when they are more career motivated, and judged more harshly by their peers? Can someone explain to me why there are more CEOs in this country with the name of “David” then there are of women of ANY name?

My background: I grew up in a democratic family in NY state, mostly consisting of educators and environmentalists. When I was 17, my mom started having me volunteer with phone banks for NYSUT, and come with her to vote in every election: even the school board ones. Those were important after all, they affected those in my family. My parents and relatives had already instilled in me a thirst for knowledge, but I also recognize that being surrounded by a bunch of hippy-esque, animal loving, mildly politically active family members helped shape the way I feel about politics today. It has with most people. I can thank my family for encouraging me to look at the issues thought.

When I was 17 I was not old enough to vote, but Hillary Clinton was running for the Senate in NY. I remember all of my family supporting her, except my dad. I asked him why. He said that “she just gave him the creeps, he did not like her, he thought of her as a dirty politician”. I thought this was strange, since my dad felt very similarly about all the issues my family did. So I asked him to sit down with me and go through the issues, and see why he hated Hillary so much. He did, begrudgingly, and on almost all the major issues Hillary should be his choice: environment, abortion, education, gun control, big business (yes, even then Hillary was a better choice then her Republican opponent). My dad agreed that she would be who he would vote for on the issues, but she just made him feel “slimy”. Interesting, and in hind sight, even though I would never think of my father as a sexist, and I know he would be proud to see how accomplished a woman I have become today if he were still alive (he would probably even be really proud of this essay), I think that some of his feeling towards Hillary were because she was a woman. Probably a lot of it was the slandering by right wing politicians that have tried to spread propaganda about her from the get go, but even men that don’t realize they are doing it have a tendency to prefer men over women in most situations of power. Numerous studies in various fields have shown this. It unsettles them, though not wanting or even acknowledging that they might be biased by sex, they find other ways to label it. (I’m keeping a list, you can ask me for it if interested and I will post it in the comment section).

Fast forward to 2015. I live in California. I am a veterinary doctor that is board certified in the critical care specialty, surrounded by Silicon Valley elites from the tech industry but also incredibly intelligent and like-minded professionals in the science fields. Aside from when I lived in Massachusetts, it’s a liberal’s dream come true. We all suspected Hillary was planning to run for president, and when she came out with her ad announcing it, even one of my former colleagues from veterinary school was featured in the ad as one of the men in the gay couple talking about their marriage: look how far we have come! From the 2008 election when EVERYONE, yes, even Obama, was for “marriage between one man and one woman”. I still remember going to an LGBT rally in Massachusetts promoting same sex marriage when it was legalized. I wish things had moved along more quickly, but it’s so nice to see how much 8 years can change.

Then the next kicker announcement in 2015: Bernie Sanders, a quite liberal senator from Vermont who I knew a little about being that I lived most of my life in neighboring states (aka I heard about him on NPR from time to time, and I liked what I heard of him), was also going to run or president. Despite being an independent in the Senate, he decided to run with the democratic party, which makes sense with his liberal views. He considered himself a socialist democrat. Most of my friends and colleagues started rumbling about him in good ways as the best option for president. In fact, my boyfriend and long-proclaimed socialist, had told me about Bernie well before I started seeing the hype on social media, and when I tried to search for non-biased articles to see where he fell on the issues, I agreed with him most of the time.

I also agreed with Clinton most of the time. Technically, after taking many quizzes, I found that 98% of the time I sided with Bernie, whereas only 95% of the time I sided with Clinton (yes, they are that similar on the big issues, the ones that are most important to me, despite the fact that Bernie supporters don’t want to admit it). I loved Hillary as a woman, but I loved Bernie’s idealism. I thought long and hard about it, and if I had to choose, the ideal country/government for me would be led by Bernie, but I would be stoked with Hillary in the lead as well. And frankly, I felt Hillary would do a better job of trying to work with opponents than Bernie due to her more broad political experience in foreign affairs and various offices in government, but when it came to the issues: yes, I will vote for Bernie Sanders. Still, I guess it’s a win-win for me, I’ll be happy either way.

Sadly, what quickly became apparent as the majority of my friends on Facebook started posting, was that most Bernie supporters did not feel the same. Instead of attacking the blatantly racist, sexist, and disgusting Trump, fellow liberals were attacking Hillary. She was labeled “an establishment candidate” at best, “a murderer, liar, and fake” at worst, +/- more derogatory terms. Being a relatively passionate person that tries not even to hate Trump (though uncontrollable nausea and fear are better descriptions of the emotions he evokes in me), I found the Bernie-supporters hate towards Hillary and her supporters very confusing. Interestingly, this blog post on Huffpost made me feel a little better about it. Maybe many of them are actually independents. I can understand why people love Bernie, I do too. I love his message. He’s definitely the most liberal candidate I’ve seen in my life.

Yet here we are, closer to the nomination with Bernie out of the race, and there is even more anti-Hillary hate. Some of it makes me feel like Bernie supporters are going to come across as poor losers. Now, there is a whole other area of debate we can bring up here: voting laws and the way voting occurs in this country. Yes, I understand that is one of the beefs about Bernie not having won. In particular, I think that it would be great for the entire voting system in this country to be overhauled. How about an online site where people can use the same means they do to confirm their identity on the social security page or other encrypted pages to place their vote online, and using the popular vote to dictate the nominee? How about eliminating the party system completely? And the delegate system completely? How about finding better ways to ensure all voters get their vote heard, which sadly is not the case in this country. Yes, these are major issues, and while I have opinions on them that probably align with yours, I also realize I am not an expert on them. And I still don’t feel they are enough to mean that Bernie has completely won the popular vote even though Hillary has won the delegates. I also don’t think it means Bernie supporters should turn their hate on Hillary: I think they should instead turn that frustration towards grassroots efforts to overhaul our voting system, which the president will not be able to change, but local laws will. And hopefully it will then travel up the system to the federal government. I also find that it might be hard for people (myself included) to think that other people feel differently about the subject when you are surrounded by so many like-minded people. I know that being in Silicon Valley has created a bit of an echo chamber about Bernie, and it is hard for people to think that the majority of liberals in places like my hometown of Albany might support Hillary over Bernie. Who knows what it is like elsewhere?

So let’s just agree that the voting laws in this country are outdated and need to be changed, and hopefully we will all find some way to work towards changing them in the future. But even if Bernie were the nominee, and elected president, he would not be able to change that without help from congress, and likely the Supreme Court. It would all probably have to start at the state level. Before I get to off tangent discussing laws that I don’t fully understand, let me move on. Back to the Hillary-haters: there are many media sources that have obviously endorsed Bernie, like Vox or Huffpost, which is great. Everyone wants to read things they agree with and post videos or ads that embrace what they feel. So naturally my facebook feed has been filled with these articles. Initially I loved the titles and read many of them, thinking more and more that Bernie was the perfect candidate. Then the articles started to shift. As the debate got closer and closer, there were more “Hills no” posts and “I’d rather die than vote for Hillary”, as well as the derogatory comments I mentioned before. It frankly turned me off, but I figured it wasn’t what Bernie felt, he’s too good a guy, right?

On a day off I was thrilled to be in the car listening to NPR as I always do when Bernie was giving an interview between his various rallies in California. I thought great, I can’t wait to hear what he has to say! And after getting to my destination I stayed in the parking lot listening for the full 10 minute interview. I left the car saddened, as his interview was no less filled with political tag lines than a Trump speech, when asked on how he would do certain things in office his only response seemed to be how he would do something better than Hillary but with minimal substance. Still, I can’t judge a guy on this one interview. And let me acknowledge, Hillary was guilty of the same slander of a like-minded opponent when she ran in the primary against Obama in 2008. I can also tell you that at that time I was very disappointed in her, it was probably the one time I did not want her to win, and I am hopeful that her lack of Bernie slander this time around shows that she learned her lesson. She has even said numerous times that she and Bernie agree on the “vast majority of issues”.

Next in my long diatribe: the reaction to my questioning of hate. The majority of what I like and see on facebook up until now has been equal in the Bernie and Hillary camps, and like I told you before, on the issues I made my mind up to vote Bernie. Yet twice during the race I made the mistake of posting something essentially asking people to “get along”. I posted this article on Hillary’s struggle as a female politician (which I don’t care how much you hate her, being a woman has made it harder for her and her achievement all the more serious). The response? Within 10 minutes I had received numerous comments about how Hillary and Bernie are radically different, and how Hillary is an evil politician. Several women and a few men that I am friends with responded in support of Hillary in a kind, supportive way, only to get slammed with 3-4 paragraph long responses about how they were obviously misinformed and then a long list of articles from sites like vox and huffpost continuing to spew anti-Hillary propaganda. I felt like I was not even allowed to express my opinion about the hardships of women on my page without being slapped in the face by Bernie supporters for being a “traitor”. Something tells me if I had responded with as much passion but lack of viable information to their posts in support of Hillary I would have been barraged with labels like “bitch” or “not a true liberal” behind my back.

During some of these anti-Hillary posts there were accusations that she was responsible for numerous coups in other countries, the slaughter of many refugees by US forces, and the continued power of numerous terrorists. I was shocked by these accusations and wanted to see if there was any truth to them. Some internet searches didn’t even reveal any right-winged conspiracy theory sites, there was literally little to no evidence of any of them. Considering the Republicans have spent the last week demonizing Hillary at their convention rather than talk about any actual issues I find it hard to believe that if there was any truth to these allegations there would not be some crazy right wing website spewing all of it. The closest I came to finding anything they had claimed was in the form of a tabloid article that was clearly fake. To give you a leg up on the actual scandals, here is a pretty informative list of her possible scandals.

Then in June when Hillary clenched the nomination my boyfriend, again, a socialist and Bernie supporter from before most people had even heard of him, commented on Facebook about how he predicted Bernie supporters would still be voting for Hillary come November (as he plans to, cause even though he supports Bernie he does not like this Hillary-hate either). Then at least four people commented right away how they would not, no matter what (all men I might add), including some pretty ugly words for Hillary. I’m sure a lot of people would say that I should have kept my nose out of it, but I couldn’t help myself, and commented that I was a Bernie supporter but had followed Hillary’s political career since I was 17, and was a fan of her too. I just couldn’t understand the Hillary-hate, and felt that despite denying it there was something of a fear of women in power fueling it. The response? In less than three minutes I was told that it was absolutely not a woman thing, that Hillary and her supporters should not keep flashing their vagina cards for sympathy, that I was ignorant and should “stfu” until I learn the facts. Sadly the male bullies won, I was astonished by the paragraphs of hate and deleted my comments since I was told they had no substance, only to have more comments saying “wow, she deleted her comments and had no arguments in support of Hillary, guess that when someone’s brain has to see things that shake their core believes they have to shut it out.” Actually, you have reinforced my core believes dear sir, that many Bernie supporters are part of the Bernie-brotherhood and are indeed fearful of a woman in power, and have to use bullying and aggressive, degrading tactics to shut women up and get their point across. Yes, you won in your mind, but in my mind you have confirmed that you are a bunch of bullying dicks that don’t want to hear what a potential female Hillary-supporter thinks, and will use yelling over the internet as your protection. The louder and more vitriol the comment, obviously means the more valid the argument.

Wow, it felt good to get that out. Yes, I have been suppressing a lot of my thoughts for fear of bullies and people who think they know better (again, mostly men), but writing this post really is liberating. And no, I don’t think any of my friends are truly sexist, or even consciously recognize that gender might be a contributing factor to their hate of Hillary. But I think it is, and sadly only women can really understand that. Women do face so much more in terms of judgments in careers, obstacles in promotions, and prejudices about their priorities.

So what has my post not covered? The issues. Despite sometimes wanting to throw up my hands and say F-you all, I love Hillary not just cause she is a woman, but because of many issues. There are lots of articles out there that are biased one way or the other, which makes it tough, but I have been searching for articles trying to post the issues in an unbiased fashion. In fact, just this week found this nice chart. What’s funny is I spent so much time in the beginning of the election season before Hillary clenched the nomination supporting Bernie I hadn’t actually thought there would be an issue where I would support Hillary over Bernie, just many similar ones. Yet I was surprised to find that I agree with Hillary’s stricter stance on gun control over Bernie’s. I do see from charts like this that Hillary is more hawkish, and while I don’t want any more wars, I also disagree with Bernie’s statement that we should let all the other countries in the Middle East “sort their own problems” out. I just think we’ve made a mess of things, and need to try to continue to help, and leaving it to its own devices might lead to more problems down the road. Obviously Bernie and I agree more when it comes to financial institutions and education, though I think free college education is really wishful thinking. Obamacare was a great step forward for healthcare in this country, but took a hard fight, and had to agree to be less liberal than Obama originally wanted it. So do we will think Bernie would be able to make all college education free with the snap of his fingers? What about gay marriage? Yes, Clinton did not support it in 2008, either did Obama, and EITHER DID SANDERS. Sanders has conveniently declined to comment on the issue UNTIL THIS ELECTION. I’m not saying either is right, but I am happy this country is moving forward to be more accepting of LGBT rights, and I don’t think Bernie gets a win in this column over Hillary since he again and again declined to comment, even if in hind sight he says he was in support of gay marriage.

I have been asked by Bernie supporters again and again to “never to compare Hillary and Bernie, they are opposite politicians”. But when I look at the issues I see many more similarities than differences. Is it just Bernie’s incredibly idealistic (an idealism I AGREE with) thoughts and ideas? Is it that he feels less mainstream even though he has been in the Senate playing politics longer than any other candidate this time around? I have also been told by Bernie supporters that “Trump and Hillary are the same to me, both horrible, worse than the lesser of two evils.” Now this is frankly offensive to me. She’s not sexist, and I think she would do more for women’s rights than any other candidate, EVER, period. She is not a mysognistic bigot. She does not trash talk same party opponents (this time around). She has a clear stance on where she stands on most issues, and ways she wants to make this country better. But she is the same as Trump? Now that is a sexist statement.

Lastly, let’s go in to the issues and previous events that most people cite as why they hate Hillary. Not gonna lie, this article is obviously biased, yet still a great read about Hillary’s honesty. And this article talks about politicians in general, and why so many of them end up losing their idealistic views for various reasons. This is quite a tragedy, but does it mean that Hillary should be name called and reviled anymore than the next politician? No, the “crimes” that left-wing people call her out for are ones that Bernie, Warren, and Obama are guilty of too. And the “literal crimes” that the Republicans claim she is guilty of are ones that previous Republican presidents have been found guilty of, and had the issue dismissed before the thought of prosecuting them for treason was even brought up. I could see the Republicans trying to find a way to dehumanize and vilify any Democratic candidate, but I have to wonder, is it made all the more easy for them given her gender? And for the liberals sick of government and politics the way it’s been escalating in this country, please ask yourself, is Hillary really to blame? And will she make things worse? If the answer is no, or probably not, could some of your fear be that she is a woman? Are women more often perceived as back stabbing? Or gossipy? Or untrustworthy? Maybe on an individual basis no, but as a whole I think you would have to agree that women are more often given those labels than men.

Instead of spending time spreading hate, this country needs more love. More peace. More acceptance. Please stop and ask yourself if some of your perceptions about Hillary could be shaped by the fact that she is a woman. And take some time to actually look at the issues, on how she has voted in the past, and what issues and agendas she wants to push forward if she were to be the first female president of the United States. I highly doubt that you will agree with every policy, just as I disagree with decisions here and there from every politician I have supported in the past, but is she truly the same as Trump? I am saddened that Bernie lost, but I am happy that Hillary is running for president, and I am just asking all the Bernie-bros and lovers, and all those against hate out there, to take some time to research Hillary and give her a chance, and let go of your anger. For once give a woman a chance to be equally compared to her male peers.

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