Wide Awake: Politically Speaking
Actually, I’m not speaking politically

I did the unthinkable a few weeks ago. I “unfriended” two people on Facebook. It took me days to make the decision, which sounds ridiculous. I kept thinking it would be rude, which is also ridiculous. But now that I’ve done it, I’m rather happy. Again…ridiculous.

Many of you will relate to my reason for my unfriending: One too many nasty political posts.

I’ve also severely cut my intake of political news. I don’t think I’m missing anything – if it’s what you’d call real news, it will come across my computer or phone, or my husband Joe will tell me. Joe’s philosophy is the exact opposite of mine. He’s absorbing all the politics he can. He has a TV in his office, and sometimes he has political news on all day. All day. Can you imagine?

We are now at a point where I will say to him: “Stop telling me this. I don’t want to hear it.” He laughs a bit, stops for about three minutes and then starts telling me again.

Last week, I was at lunch when a new friend made a negative comment about a candidate I like, which he would have no way of knowing. This is exactly what I said, with a smile on my face: “I don’t agree with you. We’re friends. Let’s not talk politics.” He smiled back, and we moved on to something else.

Here’s my rule: Unless you sleep in my house, I won’t discuss politics with you.

That rule has served me well. It has kept me calm for years. I guess you could say I’ve been living in a non-political bubble, and I am definitely OK with that.

But then two college students told me they weren’t voting. And that sounded worse than all the nasty political speak. At least when people are arguing, ideas are formed and tested. If no ideas are brought to the surface, there can’t be progress. Saying or doing nothing can be incredibly damaging, especially today.

But try telling that to a 20-something. It didn’t register, which surprised me because so many young people are politically involved today. I don’t remember my generation of college students being as vocal as this generation. Of course, we didn’t have social media, so we couldn’t share our personal beliefs with the entire world.

So now I have this contradiction: On the one hand, I stop Joe – anyone, really – from talking politics with me. On the other hand, I lecture my two young friends about the dangers of not forming an opinion, of not being counted. So do I support political speak…or not?

Can the answer to that question be “maybe”? Or “sometimes”? It depends on a few things: the temperament of the speaker, the tone of the message and, probably the most important, how well formed your opinion is. Most adults who have held the same political beliefs for decades really don’t need to hear the other side’s point of view. No one is going to convince someone with an opposing view to see the light.

So for those with well-defined political views, I keep the rule.

But if you are not sure about your beliefs and you want to learn more, do whatever you can to get information. Read reliable sources, watch the debates and, if you want, ask people you trust for their opinions. Just be prepared to see passion like you’ve never seen it before. You may even see frustration, anger, maybe rage. It probably won’t be pretty, but you have to do whatever you can so you can develop your own opinions.

And then once you know what you believe, you really don’t need to post it on Facebook.

April 2016
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