Harold is a Vietnam vet who loves our country very much, though he does have a very different view of it than I (and most other Kossacks) do. I always keep that in mind when he starts mouthing off about how anyone who voted for Obama isn't a real American, and when he expresses disgust at the progress we've made in gay rights, and when he rhapsodizes about how wonderful Ann Coulter is even if she is a tad too liberal, and so forth. You probably know the type, and maybe you have a Facebook friend or two like him as well.
Mind you, Harold is usually fairly careful to avoid insulting liberals too much when he's addressing me. Perhaps it hasn't occurred to him that Facebook does let you see your friends' activity on that right-hand sidebar, so he doesn't realize just how insulting he gets towards people like me when he doesn't think I'm looking. But then, he doesn't have a whole lot to hide. He and I have been friends (mostly online friends) for over a decade now, since we met on a now-defunct website dedicated to a musician of whom we're both big fans. He knows all about my politics, and though he despises them, he has often said he loves me like the son he never had. That, plus his great taste in music and the fact that I suspect a lot of his wingnutty comments are just his efforts to be provocative (and that debating with him is good practice against the latest Fox News propaganda), are why I mostly look the other way on his extremism.
The fact that he usually addresses me more diplomatically than he acts on his favorite Facebook groups is one of several reasons why I am able to not take his crazy politics too seriously most of the time. Another is that he is often so over the top that he ends up doing his side of the aisle more harm than good. (I know a number of sane conservatives who also know him, and really can't stand him because he makes them look loony by association.) One example of this is the reason why I am referring to him as Harold here...you've probably guessed that's not his real name. I settled on Harold as an alias here thanks to a debate we had about George Zimmerman a while back, in which he insisted on referring to Zimmerman's victim as "Harold Martin" because "I don't like the name Trayvon". Kind of says it all, doesn't it?
Well no. With guys like him, one example never does justice to just how extreme they are, does it? Which brings us to why I'm writing this diary. You see, a few days ago, I posted a link on Facebook to one of those articles that have been going around about Wendy Davis' daughters. Harold's response, which frankly was all too predictable, was something along the lines of: "She has two daughters? So she's gotten laid at least twice? See, Wendy? Sex and babies aren't all that bad."
Now, I've been through enough bullying (including some from within my own family) to know that ignoring it doesn't really make it go away, and that taking the bait will often just make matters worse. I also know Harold and his politics well enough to know there was no chance of finding any common ground with him (and he doesn't live in Texas anyway), and that he was probably just trying to get a rise out of me. But I'm never inclined to let anything that offensive just slide by, especially when it's posted on my Facebook wall. The thought of un-friending him did cross my mind, as it has more times than one.
But then I came up with something much more satisfying than that. I announced to Harold - and anyone else who might be reading: "From now on, every time you make a sexist comment like that, I'm going to set aside $10 to contribute to Ms. Davis."
Of course I didn't expect him to take it lying down, and he didn't: "Fine, and I'll send $50 to Jeff Sessions". (I really do try to give Harold the benefit of the doubt that he is not a bigot, but every now and then he leaves me with no choice but to conclude that he is. And this is one such time. He doesn't live in Alabama, either, and he could have named any Republican who was in a tough race and could really use that $50 - for that matter, he lives in a state that has one of this year's most competitive looking races at the moment - but no, he settled on the most unapologetically racist Republican in Congress, and one who doesn't need the money at that!)
For all that, I was pleased with his answer. I replied, "Go ahead and do it. It's not like we have any chance of beating him anyway, but Wendy Davis DOES have a chance."
"I'll disown Texas if that bitch wins."
"That's $20. Keep up the good work!"
"Only $10. I made ONE comment and it wasn't sexist."
I didn't bother arguing that point with him. You surely know the type - they always insist that their offensive comments aren't offensive simply because they say they aren't. Besides, it got better shortly afterward: my wife, who is overseas on business at the moment, chimed in to say she will be matching my contributions. "So now it's $40, Harold!"
Incidentally, my wife is from the Philippines (and is still not a US citizen, but I can simply add her share in my name), and was raised Catholic, and was at least marginally anti-choice when we met. I'm very proud of the changes she has made in her thinking since then. She sometimes says I'm more feminist than she is. I don't agree - she's the one who is actually living her life as a successful, professional woman in a world where that still isn't easy - but it's very flattering to hear all the same!
I do intend to keep this up, and I'd like to encourage everyone else who has a friend like Harold to do the same. People like him can't help it - they'll keep on mouthing off about man hating feminazis and so forth - but here is something we can do in response that will make a difference!
Incidentally, Harold did give it a rest with the sexist comments after that, although he went on about illegal immigrants stuffing the ballot boxes. But he'll be back, and so will my contributions to Wendy!
UPDATE: Wow, eight years on Daily Kos and finally made the rec list! Thanks everyone!