01 Jan Keeping the Dialogue

see hear speak

I try to stay away from politics—truly. But as the political discussions are becoming more extreme through the media, it’s starting to bother me.

As a mother, it’s the polarization that has me concerned. I hear politicians expressing more radical views and getting rewarded for it. Here I am, trying to raise my children with the idea that every human deserves respect—regardless of their gender, race, religion, or sexual orientation. I would like my children to grow up in a society that honors these values as well.

This past November, as we were preparing for Thanksgiving, I read several blogs and articles on how to keep the peace at the Thanksgiving table. The number one rule was: avoid discussions about politics. And even though I understand why, I still wondered—why?

To me, the moment we stop sharing our viewpoints with people who may have a different opinion—the moment we stop the dialogue—is the moment we become more polarized. When we start watching only our TV stations, read only our newspapers, and talk only about our politics with our people—meaning people who agree with us and our political ideology—well, this is the moment we lose touch with others.

Why would anyone revise or question their opinion if it doesn’t get challenged?

To me, it is no wonder Washington, D.C. has problems functioning. It’s not like our society is doing a sufficient job in having a purposeful dialogue, so why would we expect anything more from our government?

I have friends with whom I do not discuss my political views, and vice versa, even though we get along great. I suspect we probably have opposing opinions. But if I cannot share my viewpoints with my friends, who are all decent people and I think would respect my opinion, am I not keeping this polarization movement going? And if we all do this, then I wonder what the political hopes for this country are.

When some politicians spout rants that are completely devoid of respect towards each other and other people, or who spit out comments that are hateful or rude, I get angry. I feel the power and influence that politicians have should demand some decency. We should, at least, expect some grace or expect them to treat other human beings with respect.

If politicians show us it’s okay to treat other people with disregard or contempt, they are setting an example, whether they are meaning to or not. These attitudes are followed and become excusable.

Politics is not an innocent game. I can’t help but wonder if the planned parenthood shooting was partially related to all the rhetoric that was flying around. However you feel about abortion, a woman getting an abortion is not breaking the law. These women already need protection from other people; why else would there be safe rooms? This very fact shows abortion is an intensely emotional subject for people.

Perhaps one could anticipate that strong rhetoric, without even going into whether it was truthful or not, will push some people over the edge. There have been many other topics readily abused for political traction – and there seem to be many angry people out there. How many other people will need to get hurt before we decide that enough is enough?

I recall a discussion in 2011, after the Arizona shooting of U.S. Representative Giffords and six people were killed, about how political rhetoric was perhaps “too strong”? That maybe toning it down a bit was not a bad idea? It seems that shooting and the views regarding political rhetoric have long since been forgotten. But then, there have been so many baseless suggestions since, it’s hard to keep track.

In the end, I think it will be up to us, the people, to start the dialogue again. We need to try and come together in our differences and not let polarization get the upper hand. We all have to live together in this country. We will have to unless we want to turn into a nation where people on either side of the aisle do not talk to each other anymore.

Connecting face-to-face at the dinner table is often full of generic conversation. This New Year I will try to mix things up a bit and challenge my own vulnerabilities. I might just throw some politics into the discussion. I’ll let you know how that works out.

Mother, writer and physician, who has lived in both Europe and US.
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