Whenever I think back on last week’s election and the 18 months (maybe longer) that was the hell of this last election cycle, part of me wonders if there was anything I could have done differently. I’m a writer and a communicator. I’ve got opinions, but I almost never share them.
Now, don’t get me wrong. I realize I am just one person with one viewpoint. In an online world with plenty of senseless noise, sometimes the last thing we need is one more person saying what they think.
I also believe, deeply and sincerely, that most change of hearts come not from yelling what we think at people who disagree but by building relationships and touching others on a personal, deep level. Sometimes the best way to encourage someone to consider your viewpoint is to prove you’re not the evil stereotype they have in their of mind of what they think “people like you” are.
Unfortunately, I also hate confrontation, and political discourse is almost guaranteed to devolve into arguments and accusations at some point.
So I hesitated. Stopped in my tracks, truly. Would anyone care? Would I be a source of more noise? Could I stand up to hate and vitriol without losing myself?
I didn’t have answers but a lot of fear.
And then the election happened. And I wondered if there was more I could have done. Not to change minds but to show even one person they weren’t alone in their beliefs. To help one person realize that the “side” they railed against was filled with people like me (and I happen to think I’m kind of okay as a human being).
Here I am, after a potentially life-changing election, wondering what I can do to build a better future, to do my part, no matter how small it may be.
Part of me knows I need to find an organization to lend my abilities and talents to. Is that the local Democrats or is it an organization who’s mission I believe in? I don’t know.
Another part of me knows I can’t sit back and be silent anymore. I am a communicator. I write and I talk and I share my views, and when I do, some people (sometimes) listen. I don’t change minds but I connect with people, and those people feel less alone. There’s a reason people still read my personal blog from my divorce. Not because I had answers, but because they could relate to either my situation or my feelings. Either one is relevant. It was a connection. And I helped create that.
So how do I do this now?
I could write about what I think and feel, but I know a lot gets lost in translation. I’d much rather have a conversation so you can hear my tone and realize I’m a real person behind the opinions.
My thoughts right now are on a podcast. I’m a liberal girl who has lived in very conservative places almost my entire life. As a result, I’ve had to make the hard decision that my viewpoint was the one that was right for me – even as I felt societal pressures to conform to popular opinion.
I know what it’s like to feel like everyone around you “must” disagree with you, and I know what it’s like to hide your views for fear of judgement and retribution.
I also know that when people realize they are the majority, they start to live in a bubble and can’t imagine people they know see things differently. They think their news, their opinions are right. These majorities outshout the political minority that eventually goes silent out of self-preservation.
The problem is that silence is taken as acceptance and agreement. We start to think we’re the only ones who disagree, and we feel isolated. We think we can’t make a difference because there are so few of us in our neighborhood, our town, or our county – or our state and our country.
I don’t want to be silent anymore. I want my conservative friends who think liberals are all eating kale chips and taking yoga class in big cities are actually the working class people sitting next to you at work or your neighbor, struggling just as much as you are.
I want my liberal friends to know they don’t have to join secret Facebook groups in order to have a community. That we are always stronger together.
But I also want both sides to have conversations. Not to change each other’s minds but to grow in understanding of our fellow man, to find ways to live with one another, to find common ground. On certain issues, we will likely never agree, but where we do find bridges between us, we need to cross them and fight the political powers that seek to keep us divided.
We need to see each other not as red or blue, D or R, but as people. Yes, this country is messy and loud. There’s a lot to disagree about, I get it.
But I believe the vast majority of us can find some common ground somewhere.
And if my little voice with my specific outlook on life can connect like-minded people and help others see the “other side” as a little more human, I would consider that a huge success.