This has been a strange week, as national politics go. “Strange” doesn’t really cut it, I know, but I can’t find any other word. I’ve been fairly outspoken about my political opinions in the past, and I’ll no doubt put them out there again, at some point, but I’m not sure I have the stomach right now to talk about it.
Speaking publicly about politics and putting my personal opinions “out there” is something I never used to feel conflicted about. Which was unusual, I guess; I know it’s common to feel unsure about how you’ll be received, or worry that people will change their opinion of you, especially when you come from a small community.
That shouldn’t happen, but of course it does. I’ll be honest: I think of myself as an open minded and tolerant person, but sometimes, I will look at someone differently, based on their actions or comments. If, for example, they admit to leaving the teabag in the mug before they add the milk. What is that all about?
Jokes aside, of course we view people differently depending on the opinions they have. It’s human nature; it allows us to find our “tribe” and form relationships with like minded people. Being cautious of doing something which might change people’s minds about us is, I’d suggest, a natural thing.
I’m not sure why I didn’t mind, previously, and why I’m feeling a bit more tentative about it now. Maybe it’s because my circumstances have changed, at work and personally. Having a baby has made me feel more vulnerable about some areas of life, though it’s definitely given me a new strength, too; and I suspect being freelance plays a part. Maybe I’m just older and less brave?!
There are, of course, people who don’t care at all who hears their opinion, or the response. It sounds like a good thing, a ballsy take-no-shit approach, but the people I’m thinking of are the Serial Commenting Offenders. The same usually embittered local paper letter-writers, who feel the need to put their own sanctimonious last word on everything.
These people are important too, though, much as it’s a pain to admit it. In a democracy everyone has the right to an opinion, to be listened to, to have their say.
It’s the listening part that is so vital: being able to have a say is great, but for it to mean anything, we all have to be open to hearing others’ ideas.
It can be extremely, even excruciatingly hard to do this, at times – especially when it feels as though you absolutely cannot agree, or have no point of reference. I’ve certainly felt like that in the past, and I know, were I to meet a Trump voter, for example, I’d find it nigh on impossible to take their opinions seriously and not want to roll my eyes at every word they uttered.
Talking about politics in an open way is becoming increasingly “normal”, I feel, but it can still be scary. But it’s important to talk, and it is important to listen: non-judgmentally and impartially, and then think and discuss. People have opinions for a complex variety of reasons, and it’s worth having a chat about our differences and finding out why someone thinks the way they do, rather than just putting up our defenses and putting the person into the “other” box.
Sometimes, all it takes is a few conversations for people to take on new ideas and change their minds about issues. It’s always possible to grow.
Do you feel comfortable putting yourself out there and discussing politics? Is it important to you? I’d love to know.