Category : Politics

Politics
0

It’s Time to Start a Conversation

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.

 

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Politics
0

I’m Done Grieving; Let’s Get to Work

My candidate didn’t win. The results didn’t turn out like I’d wanted.

And yes, I grieved. Real tears were shed. Real sorrow was felt. Still is.

For those who may think I’m sad because my “team” lost or my emotions are about sour grapes, all I can say is no, that wasn’t it.

 

I could go into detail about what it is I voted for or against, but I think that gets us mired down again. You don’t have to understand what I was voting for or against. I know. My actions, who I am as a person, and what I believe will shine through if I live my truth. I don’t have to explain it to anyone.

I hope that I (and many others like me) are proven wrong about the very real fears we have and the speculation we’re forced to do in the absence of real information.

I will reserve judgement until we actually get to see something other than the promises that all politicians fill the airwaves with.

I will continue to respect the office of the Presidency, regardless who resides in the White House. The thing that’s been forgotten since…I don’t know, since I was a kid?…is that you can respect someone and not agree with them. You can respect their humanity and their role and not like what they do. Hate what they do, in fact.

That is my path. Respect and wary watchfulness.

The only thing I can control in this world is myself. How I treat other people. How I react in situations. What I do each and every day.

And at this point, with the election over, and the vitriol showing little sign of slowing down (I never believed November 9 would be a magical day when everyone calmed down), the thing I feel compelled to do is work for the future I want my children and your children and our grandchildren to have.

What does that work look like? I have no idea. I’m lost in a sea of too much information from everyone with an opinion and no direction.

But make no doubt about it, for me, the time to grieve is over.

Now it’s time to get to work.

It’s time to become more informed.

It’s time to use the voice I should have used all along. Yes, I am only one voice, but sometimes that’s enough.

It’s time to participate in the process more than every couple of years in the ballot box.

No more shying away from what others might think. Worrying someone will be ugly and rude is a waste of time. Fearing judgement from people who don’t really want to understand my views is pointless.

I’m not one for protesting in the streets or railing against the current system. Until it’s changed and until someone comes up with a better option, this is what we have.

But this is not who “we” are as America. We are better than the fear that has motivated people for years and years (long before President Obama was elected).

I remember the fear of liberals during President Bush’s years in office and the years of vitriol at the end of President Clinton’s presidency. This isn’t new, y’all. We simply have so much more access to each other, good information, and oh yes, bad information that we see it more often, and it feels more overwhelming.

President Obama said (and I’m paraphrasing) in one of his last campaign rally speeches, that when he bets on America, the American people, and for those of us who believe in hope and love, he always wins.

I want him (and us) to win in the way that I believe he meant.

I believe that we can be better than our fears make us. Our fear of “the other.” Our fear of change. Our fear of loss.

So I won’t fear the next four years.

I will work to help make my corner of the world and hopefully the rest of the world a better place, the country I believe my children (and all children) deserve. I will help protect the institutions that make us America – free speech, freedom of the press, freedom to protest. These are all of ours, even when you don’t agree, and more than our ability to vote, they make us who we are as Americans.

It’s time to stop crying, yelling, and railing at the people who disagreed with us and voted for something different.

It’s time to stop railing at the people who didn’t show up to vote.

It’s time to do something instead of bitching.

It’s time to stop grieving and get to work.

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Politics
2

A Plea for Tolerance

Sometimes I wish we could go back to the time when talking about politics wasn’t considered “polite” conversation.

Because frankly, in my little corner of the world, very little of the discussion about politics is polite at all. It’s a knock-down-drag-out fight to the death. The my-guy-is-better-than-your-guy and if-you-don’t-agree,-you’re-a-dumbass kind of event.

In an effort to “win” we demonize people that, under any other circumstances, we would show compassion for. Anyone who doesn’t agree with us becomes “other” and therefore foreign, even if the people on the other side are people we’ve known for years, liked, worked with, and shared a laugh or two.

Maybe I notice these things as a political minority in my personal bubble. I’m not sure if the election results will continue to show that I’m the political majority (my guy won twice, in case you wondered) but in my online, social, and familial bubbles, I’m a clear minority.

It shapes how you talk about politics when you’re one voice among dozens (and sometimes hundreds). There’s safety in perceiving yourself to be in the majority, the feeling that “everyone agrees with me” allows you to say what you want, share what you want, etc. Hell, if that was my reality, I’m sure I’d be the same way.

And truly, this type of minority isn’t the domain of any one political party. I’m sure it happens anytime one side is outnumbered by the other side.

But when you’re the small voice among much louder ones, there seem to be one of two ways you can go — loud and defiant (not my cup of tea) or quiet, holding back, saying little or nothing.

I’m the quiet one. If you know me or you pay attention to me, you’ll know my political leanings (which, truly, aren’t the point of this). It’s not that I can’t defend my beliefs, I can. You can’t constantly be in the minority and refuse to take the “easier” route of believing what everyone around you believes without being able to defend what you think.

It’s that I don’t want the conflict. I know it will devolve into name-calling. It will turn into hurt feelings, wounded pride, shouting in all caps, and zero changed minds.

I’ve had intelligent discussions with people (friends I trust) about my political beliefs. We went into it knowing we wouldn’t change the other person’s mind. All we wanted was to understand the other. It was strange, but good. And I knew then, as I know now, that it was a rare moment in political discourse.

Blame the media. Blame the politicians. Blame the political atmosphere, changing world, former recession, economy, whatever you want, but something has turned us against each other. Whatever you blame, make sure to spread it around to your side and the other side, though.

I don’t know when it started but from my untrained eyes (since I was too young to care at the time) it feels like it began when a sitting President was impeached for having extramarital affairs by politicians who were on the record of having their own extramarital affairs. And it’s only gotten worse.

We began to take sides.

And yes, point of fact, during the George W. Bush years, liberals said awful, awful things about their President. (I have to point that out because this is usually the point in the argument when someone says, “But they did it too!”) I didn’t like that, either. I didn’t agree with his politics, but he was still my president, and therefore deserved respect. Hell, he is a human being and deserves respect.

Since the popularity of social media, blogs, websites calling themselves “news,” and the ability of anyone with an internet connection to express themselves, the volume of vitriol, antagonism, and hatred has been turned up to 11.

And not just by those in power.

We’ve added to the noise. We’ve taken sides, forgetting there are real people on the opposing side. Sometimes they’re our colleagues. Sometimes our friends. Sometimes our own family. We demonize the other side, even though our rational mind should, and I hope does, know the things we say about the people who don’t agree with us can’t be true. Because if they are, you just painted your friend, your child, your mother, your co-worker with a pretty broad brush.

Really? Is your child the baby-killing, man-hating, politically correct monster that you deem all those who believe different than you “must” be? Is your business partner a dumb hick who only wants to oppress anyone different than them?

You know it’s not true (most of the time). You know you don’t feel that way about your own kid or your business partner or your cousin.

So why do you say those things online about an entire group of people? Because I promise you, in that mix is someone you claim to love or like.

And yes, I’m admonishing both sides of the political divide.

Tolerance is what we need. Tolerance for other beliefs. Tolerance that we all come at this life thing from different perspectives. Tolerance that not everyone who doesn’t agree with us is an evil person doomed to hell.

When I see people I’ve worked with, liked being around, hugged by the neck, and offered to help, say that “everyone who believes this way” is [insert derogatory comment here], it hurts. At that moment you’re talking about me, and I wonder if you’d say it to my face and mean it.

Maybe it’s just that we like to win. Maybe it’s that we believe so passionately, we can’t help ourselves. Maybe it’s easier to be upset at the opposing side than to realize we’ve all been played like fiddles by people in power who need us to continue this battle.

I don’t have answers. I don’t even have guesses. Not really.

I just know I don’t think this will end after election day (eight years of hearing a man I admire vilified at every turn tells me it won’t).

So maybe, just maybe, we should stop looking for color (blue or red) or affiliation (D or R) and start seeing each other as individuals. We have our own experiences, our own beliefs, our own needs, and our own desires.

Me disagreeing with you doesn’t make what you believe any less relevant. Just like seeing me as a caring, compassionate human being doesn’t mean you’re required to believe what I believe. We really can co-exist side by side.

We have to, don’t we?

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Politics
0

Politics, Religion, and Family Debates

Politics, Religion, and Family Debates

The first lesson I remember my father teaching me was pretty simple.

“Never discuss politics and religion in mixed company. Ever.”

As a child, I took this to mean anyone. Even family. It was such an ingrained lesson that I didn’t even know my own mother’s politics until the 2008 election cycle when I learned she was as excited by Barack Obama as any 20-something.

I have very clear political and religious opinions. I don’t share them often because my father’s voice (deceased for 13 years) still lingers in my mind.

But, sometimes, even I can get dragged into a conversation. For the record, my own comfort with a person is an indication of how much I’m willing to share. To my surprise, my stepfather is often the one to draw me out. Of course, he also raises my blood pressure in the process.

He’s mellowed over the years. What used to be an inflammatory statement made about a group of people, any group of people, simply to get a reaction from me has now become a question of, “What do you think…?” “How do you feel…?”

The good thing about these debates is that my opinion becomes more concrete. I’m able to voice my thoughts clearly. Sure, I’m willing to change my mind, but as a staunch liberal, I have a clear point of view.

The last debate was Father’s Day. My blood pressure went through the roof as I mentally and physically prepared to go to verbal war with a man who is firm in his own outlook on the world. (I sweated through my shirt and thought I must be very agitated – turns out, our air conditioner was crapping out.)

At the end, we agreed to disagree, which is how it should be. Neither of us spoke with the goal of changing the other person’s mind. (That’s a recipe for disaster).

After it was all said and done, I realized I’m pretty clear on a few points:

On Religion

Believe whatever religion you want but don’t expect me to join in. If I, as a questioning person, can respect your beliefs, surely others can respect my own – or lack there of. Unless you’re a follower of Thor and Odin who went around making war on everyone, the deities of the day preach love in some form or fashion. But that seems to be the first attribute forgotten once people are ready to defend their beliefs.

The Bible is a fascinating piece of literature and history but I don’t believe it should be taken literally. The principles are sound – love thy fellow man, don’t kill, don’t steal. That being said, while I don’t understand or agree, I will fight for someone’s right to choose their religious beliefs and texts.

On Immigration

Illegal immigrants are not the enemy. In many cases, they should be admired. They battle deserts, oceans, starvation, bigotry, and hatred to come to the United States to make a better life for themselves and their families. They accept back-breaking work for low wages when they may have been highly educated people in their home countries.

Most are law-abiding (outside of the immigration part) people. How are they any different from the English and French who arrived on America’s shores a few hundred years ago or those who arrived on Ellis Island less than a century ago? They aren’t. Every time I hear a white person tell a Hispanic person to “Go home,” regardless of their immigration status (known or unknown), one of my Native American ancestors rolls over in their grave.

On Race

The Charleston shooting was absolutely racism at it’s worse, no matter what some media outlets say. Let’s call a spade a spade and stop with all the crap. A white guy, fueled on paranoia and racism, sat with church parishioners for an hour, listened to them pray, and killed them in cold blood. He’s not a lone madman, he’s a terrorist.

I’m a Southerner, born and raised. No, I don’t like the Confederate flag, and I definitely don’t think it should be flying over government buildings. When I was growing up, it wasn’t used as a reminder of heritage or history – it was typically worn and flown by people who thought the races shouldn’t mix and segregation was a good idea. But they’d usually only say that if the group they were in was all white.

White privilege exists, and while I don’t always recognize it (as someone who benefits from it daily), when I do, I’m willing to admit that’s exactly what it is. I’m not worried that other groups are demanding equal and fair treatment and the same benefits I’ve experienced my whole life. I find nothing threatening in it – it’s only right. No one is “taking over” my country. They’re simply standing up and demanding recognition and a voice. (Yes, I recognize that as a woman, I’ve been on the receiving end of discrimination, but my life as a white woman has still been much different – and better – than that of many minority women.)

If we won’t categorize all white people (and by we, I mean, other white people) as evil or bad based on the actions of a small few, we shouldn’t do it with any other group – black, Hispanic, Muslim, doesn’t matter. The actions of one black person don’t make them all bad. The actions of one group of Muslims doesn’t make them all terrorists. If white people aren’t a reflection of the actions of our race or religion, neither is anyone else.

On Poverty

This is pretty simple. I don’t have a problem with my tax dollars helping people in need. I don’t mind feeding hungry people. I think the states that refuse to expand Medicaid based on political reasons are awful (my own included). Do I think there’s abuse? Of course – someone will always try to take advantage of a system.

Those in need far outnumber the cheats and thieves.

For those who believe it’s an issue of race, think again. More white people are on food stamps than black people. And the fears that illegal Hispanics are on food stamps and using all our resources just don’t play out – only 19% of food stamp recipients are Hispanic.

What I would rather have is a thriving middle class, an education system that works for all the people – not just those with the most resources in the richest neighborhoods, and a living minimum wage. That’s how you get people off welfare permanently.

The rest of the world doesn’t see the United States the way we see ourselves. This is a great country (the amount of people desperate to come here should prove that point) but that doesn’t mean we always get it right. We’d do better to be honest about that than pretend that we’re superior in every way. I can still love my country and realize there’s room for improvement. I’m no less a patriot for believing it’s okay to try tactics that work in other countries – healthcare, gun control, hell, even Irish voters supported gay marrage. You’re going to tell me the United States couldn’t do that for ourselves? Really??

Oh, and I’m going to be very sad when Jon Stewart leaves The Daily Show. Very, very sad. I hope he continues to use his viewpoint and his voice to point out hypocrisy and BS in the media and government.

So why talk about religion and politics when I was taught not to do it, and it’s so easy to get people riled up? Because if more people spoke up and entered the debate, those who feed off of hate and misinformation might finally find themselves outnumbered. Instead of just being shocked during election time, maybe they’d realize that the tide is changing (regardless of the screaming headlines online, in newspapers, and on TV). Those with no voice are finding theirs – and I have no problem lending mine to the mix.

Image via Kozzi (G20 Protest, Toronto, 2010)

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