Thursday, November 17, 2016

ELECTION 2016: When You Feel Like You're Speaking Into A Void

In the current political climate, I feel like I am speaking into a void of misunderstanding and confusion. I am certain that many people feel this way.

As somewhat of a political activist, I strive to be a voice of reason in difficult conversations. But this election and its aftermath rocked me on a level I didn't think was possible. How did we become so divided and distant from each other? I'm made for consensus-building, mutually agreeable solutions, and consideration of other's feelings, so this election's outcome has shattered my reality.

A major contributing factor to the divide is insulation. We surround ourselves with those who think and act like us and who, for the most part, share our worldview. We don't expose ourselves to people who hold differing views, nor do we strive to understand them.

I am learning how to understand those who feel differently than I do about our country's progress. And don't get it twisted - it's super fucking hard. One reason it's hard is because I genuinely don't understand why people don't see my point of view. But I'm trying to put that aside and hear them. Having honest and genuine conversations with decent people is an important part of civic dialogue, and it is the only way forward.

Another reason it is difficult is because most people are not interested in understanding each other. They actively avoid understanding, or they become defensive. This is the part that makes me want to disown people on social media and crawl into my own little hole with my tribe. I have already burned bridges, but I made sure all of them were bridges that should have been burned many moons ago  because they were not good people, or because they willfully inflamed hatred.

While encounters with "the other side" can be frustrating, insulating yourself is a mistake. It took thorough consideration and deep reflection on my part as to whether insulation was the way forward for me. It is not.

Here's why:

Just before the election, I received a text message from a good friend who agrees with my politics and worldview (insulation, see?). His message stated that our mutual friend had filled out her mail-in ballot, but, at the last minute, threw it in the trash and voted on Election Day for our chosen candidate. When I asked him what made her change her mind, he said, "I think some of your Facebook posts have countered all of the posts she sees from her family and friends and opened her eyes." I've never spoken with her directly or on social media about politics. I had no clue she was even reading any of the articles I shared. It hadn't occurred to me that I could be changing hearts and minds unbeknownst to me - that speaking into the void could have an effect on someone and I would never know it.

Just before the election, I went out to drink wine with one of my best friends. We have never been on the same side of the political aisle, but we love each other regardless. Typically we talk men, booze, jobs, and kids and keep politics completely out of it. This particular night, she wanted to talk about where each of the candidates stood on the issues and wanted to hear my reasoning for where I stood on each of them. Being the crazy political animal I am, I welcomed the discussion. While we did not agree on each issue, we did get to a place of understanding on each issue. Then on election night she contacted me to say she had changed her original vote - not to my chosen candidate, but to one that I would consider more reasonable and more aligned with her worldview. Again, I had zero clue that our discussion had any impact whatsoever on her political views or her vote; at the time I was simply having a discussion with a friend. 

So, I am choosing not to insulate myself. We should continue to have the hard conversations because we never know who we are influencing and how we are affecting those around us. I will continue speaking into the void and hope my message is heard. It starts with a ripple. So, for me the only option is to engage with those on "the other side" and STAY THE MOTHERFUCKING COURSE.

I hope you're with me.

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