You Don’t Usually Talk About Politics … But You Should

I often read posts on Facebook that start out with this qualifier:  “I don’t usually post about politics, but…”  A news story hit someone and they felt compelled to stray from their usual cute kitty or delicious food posts and weigh in on the subject.   They felt compelled to comment – but they also felt compelled to qualify their statement lest anyone judge them too harshly.

“It’s not like me to get political, but…”

Why do we feel the need to qualify our political commentary in that way?  Why do we need to defend our words before we even say them?  Why do we think it’s more acceptable to talk about sports, food or children instead of the important social issues of our time?

It’s a defensive maneuver, and I do it, too.  I don’t want to alienate my friends or followers, so I think tacking a disclaimer onto my post will soften anything I’m about to say.  I want to throw my two cents into the discussion, but I don’t want to be judged too harshly.  I don’t want to deter from anyone’s entertainment on Facebook or Twitter or Instagram or what have you, so I let everyone know that it’s really not like me to do this … but I have something to say.

The funny thing is, I would much rather see a political post from any one of my friends than a fluffy one.  Sure, I like seeing those pictures of your children on the first day of school.  I’m interested in what they were serving at Elway’s Steakhouse.  (I’m guessing it was … steak?)  I like the funny memes and the little cartoons and the easy, breezy posts that comprise the majority of my feed.

But I also like things that are real.  I like hearing your take on public education.  I want to hear more about the Dakota Access pipeline.  I want an update on the Flint water situation.  I’m interested in cases that are being brought in front of the Supreme Court, learning more about people that are being appointed to Trump’s administration and understanding gun laws better.  I want to know what your perspective is.  I want to hear all the voices and read all the opinions.  I want you to talk about politics!

It’s okay to talk about important things.  In fact, it’s necessary for our growth as a society.

Sometimes I’m apprehensive about stating my opinion, especially a political opinion, because my opinion is based only on what I currently know, and other more educated people may shoot down my argument.  I don’t know enough, so I don’t want to say anything.  What if I say something and then I find out my facts were false?  What if I state my opinion and then my opinion changes?  I don’t want to look like an idiot!

But we all do this.  We do it all the time.  We each state our opinion based on the information we currently have access to.  We use the information available to us to form conclusions and navigate our way through this beautiful, messy universe.  And then when we learn more, we adjust.

Many years ago, I was a catechism teacher for my Catholic church.  I taught 5th graders about God.  In our teacher resources, I remember reading an outline about how to tailor our lessons about God based on the age of a child.  Young children understood God as the Father – a “man in the sky,” and lessons were geared around that understanding.  Older children identified more with Jesus as a son and teacher and even as a peer, so lessons abounded with a friendly Jesus as the focus.  Adults, having deepened and expanded their understanding of God, were more open to approaching the Holy Spirit, the least tangible of the trinity, and thus books and prayers tended to focus more on the Holy Spirit than the Father or the Son.  Religious teachings, as with most any subject, are often catered to the audience.  As understanding deepens, lessons are expanded to such an extent that they may even be vastly different than the simplistic initial lessons that were originally introduced.  This is natural and normal, not something to shy away from.  The instruction texts encouraged teachers like me to tailor lessons as needed, because the point was to help children learn – not to get everything 100% right.

I was terrified to teach children about God, until a little booklet gave me permission to do it imperfectly.

If we are all too scared to state our opinions and share our knowledge, then we will never be able to share the information that we all so desperately need.   We will all be left behind.  The only way forward is through courageously sharing our thoughts while keeping a tiny bit of our brains open to new or better information as it becomes available.

It’s our duty as responsible humans to make the best decisions we can, and form the best opinions we can, based on the information we have available to us.  We are always learning.  And when we learn more, we again should feel compelled, if not even outright obligated to adjust our opinions and/or actions to fit the new information.

As Maya Angelou famously said, “Do the best you can until you know better.  Then when you know better, do better.”

I want to be a better person.  I need you to tell me how.

Keep learning, and keep sharing.  Your opinion has value.  Don’t shy away from commenting on the political stuff.  Your voice needs to be heard.

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