I don't normally do this, but this is a topic I feel strongly enough about to include on both of my blogs...
I was placed in a social situation where the guest of a guest--not
knowing or caring what everyone's political opinions were--carelessly
demonized one of the candidates. What had started as a relaxed and fun
party turned tense and thorny. It was neither the time or place for
such talk and one by one (starting with myself) people began to leave
the table until this person's audience dwindled to nothing. He did what
so many people do, which is (1) assuming that we have "enough" in
common that we must agree politically and (2) being so over-confident
that his views were the right ones that it made up the difference, in
other words, not really caring whether people agreed with him or not.
few awkward minutes (which felt much longer) reminded me of the climate
change in conversation that always happens during an election year. It
is a mistake many people make, and it usually begins with the first
thing that this party guest did. They take a quick look around the
room, the table, email contacts, or even their Facebook friends list;
then they do a brief statistical analysis of the group (naturally we
can't know everything about everyone, but it doesn't matter) We have
about 80% of things (probably) in common. Or at least the
fundamentals. Good enough. And then...the political opinion sneeze is
What I find interesting is that very rarely does anyone
talk positively about who they are supporting. It is usually negative
or harshly derogatory about who they are not supporting. It is
mud-slinging at the public level. If the political candidates and their
teams are aware of it, they must love that people do this. It
certainly makes their job a lot easier. It is so much simpler to talk
about what someone is doing wrong than what we are doing right. And
religious beliefs? The Golden Rule? Treating others with respect and
kindness? When it comes to politics and political opinion those things
are usually non-existent (unless the mud-slinging involves bashing a
candidate's religion, either real or assumed, and how it will play a
role in their platform.)
As for myself, I am in a precarious
position. As an educator, most (but not all) of my former co-workers
belong to one political party. As a Mormon, most (but not all) of my
church friends belong to another. So, lucky me, when I go on Facebook,
half of my friends and family align themselves with one side and half
align themselves with the other. My extended family is mixed, my
in-laws are mixed, and my husband and I both tend to rest somewhere in
the middle. That doesn't mean we don't have opinions on heavy issues.
Believe me, we do. However, he enjoys talking about politics and I
don't. (For me, it is right behind getting my toenails pulled out one
But what I really see when a political topic is brought
up is the emerging of that basic human need to categorize things.
Privilege or right? Rich or poor? Deserving or undeserving? Entitled
or not? Liberal or Conservative? Democrat or Republican? As the
categories hit closer to home they start to define us. And they start
to define how we see other people. Why is that? Why do we let
ourselves play into that kind of thinking?
We know why, although
we don't like to verbalize it. It is because we like to categorize
ourselves as well. We like belonging to a group, a way of thinking, a
side, and supporting a possible victor. We want to feel like we are on
the winning team. And even if the person we are supporting doesn't
succeed, we are comforted by the fact that so many others supported him,
surely, we cannot all be wrong. To admit we were wrong is
unthinkable. Many will spend the duration criticizing the person who
was elected, shaking their heads and pouting. I've done it too. It's
completely unproductive, but somehow it makes us feel better. And
anyway, in four more years we'll pull ourselves up by our bootstraps and
try again, certain that the person we are supporting this time will
turn our country around and make it what the Founding Fathers
envisioned. The American Dream restored.
I would like to propose something.
election years like this one, let's put a bit more energy into other
things as well. Let's not make careless assumptions. Let's opt for
kindness. Let's be careful of the way we throw out the words "liberal"
and "conservative." Let there be more discussions and less arguments.
Let's do more listening and less talking. Let's do our part and keep
the mud on the ground where it belongs. And let's be more considerate.
I am not just talking about how we voice our political opinions. I'm
talking about assessing whether the timing is right and knowing our
audience--even if you're 100% sure they agree with you. If they don't,
let's care more about that. And most of all, let's not allow political
differences to affect the way we see others.
Gandhi said this: If
we could change ourselves, the tendencies in the world would also
change. As a man changes his own nature, so does the attitude of the
world change towards him. … We need not wait to see what others do.
How true this is and it is speaking to each and every one of us.