There are so many topics out there that are heavily polarized. One side thinks the other is crazy. The other side thinks the first side is nuts. And neither side is very kind about it. We’ve seen this day in and day out with politics and it just seems to be the way things are right now, but I have a problem with it.
Note: This is not going to be a post arguing vaccine safety, gun control, the right type of ‘diet’ or animal cruelty. While I realize I am opening myself up to such scrutiny, I’m not looking for a debate on the issues and as such I’m closing the comments. If you’d like to send me a kind note, please do, ( salamanderpal at gmail) but know that I am really not into being berated or lectured. It’s taking me a lot of guts to put this out there, so please be kind. I’m going to make my choices, and you can make yours and I’m pretty good with that.
That said, this is coming about due to my experience on social media with my political views and others. I am a liberal, hippie-crunchy vegetarian that disagrees with mandatory vaccination, is pained by factory farming and the slaughter of animals, and loves socialized medicine. It takes a LOT of guts and pep talking on my part to even POST a response, or something I believe in, simply for fear of the response. (Some will say – who cares what people think!? But…being sensitive I just can’t dismiss the replies, so I keep my mouth shut) I’m pretty familiar with being on the edge of things. It’s a tiring, exhausting place to be some days and biting my tongue gets painful.
I bite it because I don’t want to argue, not because I don’t care or don’t have strong views. I bite my tongue because inevitably, it won’t be a discussion where both people are heard and we agree to disagree with a better understanding of each other. I bite my tongue because nine times out of ten, it will devolve into accusations of stupidity and idiocy with a side of hurt feelings. I don’t care if you think killing animals is awesome, vaccination is the greatest thing we’ve ever done and it never hurts anyone or if MOAR GUNS is your battlecry. I do care, that you don’t call me names or be insensitive.
So maybe you can already tell, but my problem isn’t that I am on the minority side of things here. It tends to be my thing. My problem is exactly the same problem I had during the elections – the way one side ostracises the other. The way articles label the side they are not on as crazy, idiotic and just plain stupid for even questioning the ‘truth’. The way they invalidate good peoples’ fears and concerns without batting an eyelash.
Guys, why do we do this?
I personally live in a constant state of feeling stifled. I realize some of this lies in my own sensitivity and fear of reaction, but should I have to fear being jumped on? Should I really keep my mouth shut, because I don’t want to get attacked? Called stupid? Made to feel inadequate or unintelligent? Told I clearly don’t believe in science? Made to feel like I must not understand or I’d feel differently? Really, should I fear all these things?
I don’t think so.
There are extreme ends to every issue and there always will be. Is it possible we make them even MORE extreme by our constant labeling and ostracism? By the way we immediately brush off their concerns or fears? By continually not validating people who buck the status quo? By villainizing the ‘other’ side or the minority, we make people more defensive, more aggressive and more rabid in their attempts at being heard. It’s really no wonder that speaking my mind gives me such great anxiety that it keeps me from doing so.
Questioning authority is a GOOD thing in my book. So much of the controversial topics have things that DO need more investigation by impartial parties. Studies. Research. Why are we teaching the world that questioning the rules is such an awful thing? Shouldn’t we be encouraging each other to think for ourselves and to keep pushing for truth? Truths change. Scientific theories have changed over the years, repeatedly as technology and innovation happens. We wouldn’t have many of the innovations we have if people hadn’t kept questioning. Kept seeking. Kept searching.
It’s easy to be big, to talk boldly and to stand up when you’re with the majority. It’s easy to talk about your beliefs when you know you’ll get support, without doubt. It’s not so easy when you’re in a minority without the same vocalization and safety in numbers. I’ll say from experience, it is REALLY FREAKING HARD to be brave enough to say – this is what I stand for – when you know you’re going to get shot down. When you know people will make you feel like an idiot, if they don’t actually call you one. When you know the majority won’t understand where you’re coming from, or even care. Then what happens is the loud majority gets heard, while the minority still gets stifled, ostracised and isolated.
When what they really need, is validation. They need someone to listen to them, and even if they don’t agree, say that they understand where they are coming from or at least WHY they feel/believe the way that they do. You don’t have to agree, but I feel like we take disagreement as a cue that we don’t have to listen or try to understand. I don’t need you to not vaccinate your children, but I do need you to hear my personal story with vaccine injury and maybe understand where I’m coming from. I don’t need you to agree that no one should carry a concealed weapon, but I do need you to hear my experiences and listen to me. I need you to understand my feelings on the matter, whether you agree or disagree and in return? I’ll do the same for you, as long as you’re not making me feel inadequate or calling me names. Really! That’s how it can work! If it is so clearly me vs. you, why do I need to understand?
Well, because it’s the only way that we’re going to get anywhere in this world. If two people on opposite sides of gun control can’t sit down and understand why they feel the way they do in a safe manner, how will effective policy ever be made? If the Pro-Vaccine people can’t hear the cries of those with injured or deceased children and be at the very least compassionate, we will just keep yelling at each other. If Democrats paint Republicans as conservative crazies and Republicans continually tell you that Democrats are one eyed monsters, well, who the hell is going to want to sit down and really understand each other? (If you’d like to see a well spoken speech on this, and the media’s effect on polarization, go look up the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. Jon Stewart is pretty brilliant in my opinion with his words.)
I just don’t care what the issue is. Political parties. Gun control. Drugs. Vaccination. Religion. GMOs. Vegetarians vs. Cavemen. I don’t care. What I care about is that we watch how we talk about ‘the other side’. Both to their faces and in general. That we watch how we make others feel. That we be compassionate while discussing these things. That we don’t just say what idiots a group of people are, off the cuff without thinking. While it might be simple open and shut for you, it may not be for the other person. Maybe they’ve had a gun death, or a vaccine injury in their family that you don’t know about that has brought them to where they are. Maybe you’ve had other experiences that they don’t know about that have helped form your views.
Maybe before you tell someone how irresponsible they are for their choices, liken someone’s unvaccinated children to rabid dogs, tell someone they are a moron for owning a gun or call a group of believers idiots, think about the story they might have. I know they can be impassioned topics, but we each have a reason for the views we take, we each have stories to tell and experiences that color our take on life. Why not share your story, rather than an aggressive argument? I just can’t help feeling that we’d get a lot farther in this world and even in our little pocket communities if we listened. Truly listened. Not to respond, but to understand.
I don’t need you to agree with me, but I do need you to respect my intelligence, my beliefs and my story. I promise, I’ll extend the same courtesy to you. (And maybe we can get our politicians to do similar 😉 )
“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.”
― Stephen R. Covey