It's a story that, in one form or another, has become a mainstream news staple during the media meltdown after the election of Donald Trump as president. I am talking about the Wars On Facebook phenomenon, the whole idea that this election has driven painful, emotional wedges into families and circles of friends, severing the ties that bind.
It's a hot story because, for many people, it's absolutely true. This is really happening out there in social-media land and in the real world or real people. The question, of course, is "Why?" What are these divisions really about?
In most of the coverage the key issue is Trump himself -- period.
For journalists, it appears, Americans are either for Trump or against him. However, anyone who has read deeper into the coverage -- especially polls focusing on religious voters -- knows that millions of voters did not vote for Trump because they wanted Trump. They voted against Hillary Clinton, in part because of their concerns about moral and social issues (think religious liberty, as well) and the U.S. Supreme Court.
Thus, at the very least, there are three divisions at the heart of the Wars On Facebook phenomenon. Anyone -- oh, like me -- who was #NeverTrump #NeverHillary knows that.
The other day, Mark "KMark" Kellner sent out a perfect example of this phenomenon, care of Reuters. I call this story it perfect because it contains absolutely zero content about religion and/or moral and social issues. The headline: "From disputes to a breakup: wounds still raw after U.S. election." Here is the overture:
WASHINGTON (Reuters) -- Burning passions over Donald Trump's presidency are taking a personal toll on both sides of the political divide. For Gayle McCormick, it is particularly wrenching: she has separated from her husband of 22 years.
The retired California prison guard, a self-described "Democrat leaning toward socialist," was stunned when her husband casually mentioned during a lunch with friends last year that he planned to vote for Trump -- a revelation she described as a "deal breaker."
"It totally undid me that he could vote for Trump," said McCormick, 73, who had not thought of leaving the conservative Republican before but felt "betrayed" by his support for Trump.
The thesis statement comes a few lines later:
Three months after the most divisive election in modern U.S. politics fractured families and upended relationships, a number of Americans say the emotional wounds are as raw as ever and show few signs of healing.
The rancor has not dissipated as it has in the aftermath of other recent contentious U.S. elections. A Reuters/Ipsos opinion poll shows it has worsened, suggesting a widening of the gulf between Republicans and Democrats and a hardening of ideological positions that sociologists and political scientists say increases distrust in government and will make political compromise more difficult.
The Reuters/Ipsos poll of 6,426 people, taken from Dec. 27 to Jan. 18, shows the number of respondents who argued with family and friends over politics jumped 6 percentage points from a pre-election poll at the height of the campaign in October, up to 39 percent from 33 percent.
Once again, note that this story is framed completely in terms of people voting for Trump or rejecting Trump, when the reality is more complex than that. Also note that the divisions are framed in strictly political terms -- Democrats vs. Republicans. That's interesting, since hardcore Trump army folks hate the Republican establishment as they do the Democratic Party elites (and the feeling appears to be mutual).
Now, note how personal all of this is and note that the bitterness exists on one side more than the other.
Sixteen percent said they have stopped talking to a family member or friend because of the election -- up marginally from 15 percent. That edged higher, to 22 percent, among those who voted for Democrat Hillary Clinton. Overall, 13 percent of respondents said they had ended a relationship with a family member or close friend over the election, compared to 12 percent in October.
"It's been pretty rough for me," said Rob Brunello, 25, of Mayfield Heights, Ohio, a truck driver who faced a backlash from friends and family for backing Trump. "People couldn't believe Trump could beat Hillary. They are having a hard time adjusting to it," he said.
Now, from this point on the story focuses on personal conflicts and politics defined in almost strictly political terms. As you would expect, opposition to Trump is framed in terms of his rhetoric on race and immigration.
OK, let me add a personal observation: I don't know a single person who voted for Trump (again, I did not vote for Trump or Clinton) who supports the extreme positions on immigration that he, at times, voiced as a candidate. Then again, I don't know -- personally -- a single person who voted for Trump who actually wanted to vote for Trump.
Yet I know lots of people who have had their share of post-election clashes with people on Facebook and in social media, in general. When push comes to shove these fights are almost always about Clinton and the U.S. Supreme Court and Trump and the U.S. Supreme Court. Rejecting Clinton is the same thing, for many, as backing Trump.
Clearly many of these fights are about Trump. I get that. But all of them? I am wondering if Clinton's lose simply poured gasoline on divisions that were already there and have been there, oh, since 1973 or even 1987? The relevant political verb is "Bork."
Consider this one passage in the Reuters report, when addressing why everything has become so personal:
At the same time, many people reported their relationships have not suffered because of the election. The poll found about 40 percent had not argued with a family member or friend over the race.
So that would mean that 60 percent have taken part in these spats.
"Once people found out I had voted for Trump the stuff started flying," said William Lomey, 64, a retired cop in Philadelphia who no longer speaks with a friend he grew up with after they clashed on Facebook over the election. "I questioned him on a few things, he didn't like it, he blew up and left me a nasty message and we haven't talked since."
He said his friend is gay and worries about Trump's sometimes demeaning campaign rhetoric about minority groups including Muslims, Hispanics, immigrants and the disabled.
In the end, what are the subjects that are being avoided in this story? What large chunk of the American population is being ignored?
Are your GetReligionistas the only folks who think the Reuters team is working really, really hard to avoid discussions of religious/moral issues and their role in this election, especially for Americans who went into voting booths worried about the U.S. Supreme Court?