“Let us not seek the Republican answer or the Democratic answer, but the right answer. Let us not seek to fix the blame for the past. Let us accept our own responsibility for the future.” ~ John F. Kennedy ~
For as long as I can remember, I’ve loved politics. Growing up, I had strong, partisan opinions despite a weak understanding of many political issues…women’s rights, labor unions, the roll of government, immigration and more. I hated femi-nazis before I had a my first period. Before I was officially a woman, I already had a pretty good idea that these bitter, power hungry, man hating women were ruining it for the rest of us. In my house, we paid attention to politics, watched debates, cared about issues and always, always voted conservative. I knew my parents were Republicans and I knew where they stood on important political issues because we talked about it openly. Rush Limbaugh’s daily radio show played throughout the soundtrack of my youth and his books lined the shelf in our living room.
Most of us grow up believing (or at least absorbing) our parents’ politics. We overhear what they say, take in what they watch, and begin filtering the world through a similar belief system. Nearly 70% of children follow in their parents’ belief footprints. Political affiliation definitely runs in the family. However, not everyone cares about politics or believes it’s appropriate to discuss. Maybe you never thought much about politics as a kid, maybe you still don’t. Regardless of where we started, it’s our responsibility to develop a deeper understanding of important issues, get to know our elected representatives, and actively participate in the political process.
How Our Beliefs Evolve
When I left my small, rural community to attend Illinois State University, my parents were terrified that liberal college professors would brainwash me with their radical, socialist ideals.
No, that’s not true. Actually, I eventually was forced to examine my politics and beliefs through reason and rationality, not because my university professors indoctrinated me, but because college taught me something my parents inadvertently didn’t….to think for myself.
I studied “the controversy” of many issues, not how to think about them, but to see all sides, gather facts, use logic, and build an argument that could stand on its own two feet. My college years not only broadened my knowledge of history, literature, government, sociology, and psychology (to name a few), but exposed me to new ideas, people, and ways of thinking. I began seeing shades of grey where I once believed only black and white lived.
Residing in a larger, more diverse community exposed me to people who looked, talked, thought, and acted differently than what I was used to. Generalizations and internalized discriminations just didn’t hold up when I get to know people as individuals. The more I engaged with dissenting opinions and different lifestyles, the more I came to realize we are all more alike than different. What I learned and experienced during these years was an important part of my education.
Education doesn’t necessarily need to involve college, but being educated does involve valuing learning, logic, critical thinking, and being able to distinguish bullshit from factual data. Gaining an education is about getting good at keeping an open mind, stepping outside your own echo chamber, and escaping your confirmation bias.
My personal political evolution has been, and continues to be an ongoing journey. These days I consider myself a left leaning, fiercely independent free thinker hungry for rational thinking, facts, fairness, common sense, and a return to civility in political discourse. I believe our best path is down the center of the political spectrum. Over 50% of Americans agree. I believe the far right’s dogmatic approach will never take us where we need to be and the far left’s sensitivity will prevent us from ever getting anything done.
You may think, given the topic and subject of my blog, that I am here to push my feminist agenda, and if by feminist agenda you mean the radical belief that women are people, then yes, I will be pushing that idea here. I guess that makes me one of those femi-nazis I grew up despising. Like everything, there are extremes on every issue, outliers to any argument and those who take things too far, but ultimately, I believe in female empowerment and equality. I think too much of this world prefers silent, pretty girls to those with the audacity to speak.
Let’s Talk About Politics
I love politics because it challenges me.
I love politics because even when you think you know something, you learn there is so much more to it than you thought.
I love politics because I care deeply about leaving this world a better place than a found it and the political process allows us to be agents of change in a real and meaningful way.
I want to talk about important issues here at Once Upon a Wednesday because I think it’s vitally important for women particularly to be educated on issues that affect us and our families.
I don’t want to tell you what to think. I don’t want to be another loud voice screaming over the crowd. I want to listen. I want to gain a deeper understanding myself while facilitating open conversations and meaningful dialogue.
I want this blog to a be a place where we can find common ground on divisive issues because I firmly believe we are far more alike than different and that hate can’t exist in proximity. Mostly hate is fear is disguise.
We fear that which we don’t understand, therefore I’m working hard to gain a better understanding because I don’t want to waste energy worrying when I can use it to make the world a better place. I refuse to adopt a scarcity mentality. Equal rights aren’t pie…more for others isn’t less for me, there’s more than enough to go around; however, when you demand equality from the people who’ve ruled everything for several hundred years, to them, it looks a lot like a demotion.
Basically, the issues are complicated and never as simple as one side will lead you to believe. I forget this often however, so please keep me in check. I want to know when I’m wrong and sincerely care to hear differing perspectives. I believe everyone is entitled to their own opinion, just not their own facts. Fake news is not welcome here. When discussing issues on my blog, I expect everyone to respect divergent opinions, provide evidence, seek to understand, and keep an open mind.
The Power of Conversation
Political polarization has reached historic levels in this country, and it’s only getting worse. Polls show that most Americans now believe the other political party threatens the nation’s well-being. Increasing polarization is fueled by those who benefit from anger and conflict, bully pundits, internet trolls, and even political parties and their candidates. The Democratic Party has largely eschewed policy reform in favor of resistance to President Trump while Republican’s strategy is to expose and exploit division. Compromise and nuance have been replaced by rage and fear. All of this may make good ratings and fuel for Facebook wars, but it’s terrible for democracy. We won’t restore our sense of one country until we start seeing “the other side” as our friends and neighbors again.
Daryl Davis, a jazz musician from Chicago has an incredible story demonstrating what’s possible when we put our differences aside. For the past 30 years, Davis, a black man, has spent his time befriending members of the Ku Klux Klan. To date, over 200 Klansmen have given up their robes to him. How did it do it? By listening and finding common ground.
“When two enemies are talking, they’re not fighting. It’s when the talking ceases that the ground becomes fertile for violence. If you spend five minutes with your worst enemy — it doesn’t have to be about race, it could be about anything…you will find that you both have something in common. As you build upon those commonalities, you’re forming a relationship and as you build about that relationship, you’re forming a friendship.”
You can read more about Davis’ incredible story in the NPR article, How One Man Convinced 200 Ku Klux Klan Members to Give Up Their Robes.
Why Should I Get Care?
Voting is one of the most important rights and responsibilities that U.S. citizens have, however nearly half of all eligible voters do not get to the polls. Our country has the lowest voter turn outs of all industrialized, democratic countries. When we don’t vote, we give up our voice (and right to complain as many would say).
Would you let a stranger make important financial decisions for you, or tell you what job to have, or even choose who you’re allowed to marry? When we don’t participate in the political process, we’re turning over our power to other people and leaving important decisions in their hands.
When we vote, we have a say in how our hard earned tax dollars are spent.
When we vote, we determine how our water, air, and earth are protected.
When we vote, we support social issues and policy that matter to us.
When we vote, we participate in selecting those who control our schools, regulate safety in the work place, monitor our food, and determine our health care benefits.
When we vote, we tell politicians to listen up. If only elderly white men show up at the polls, politicians’ political talking points and policy agenda will revolve around medicare and not parental leave, the college loan crisis, or the opioid epidemic. Your vote is the only way to tell politicians what matter and hold them accountable for their actions. We all try and get away with speeding, especially when no one’s watching, but if you knew a cop was running radar, you’d slow down. Our politicians need to know we have eyes on them and if they don’t represent us, we’ll vote for someone who will.
Whether you love or hate President Obama, he makes some excellent points on why we all need to stop with the excuses and vote already
How Do I Get Started?
Now, more than ever, there is truck loads of information out there to help you better understand the issues and candidates. Don’t be afraid to talk to your friends, neighbors, and co-workers. I guarantee you many of them will have strong opinions and be happy to tell you who to vote for. Listen and ask lots of questions, questions like “How do you know? What’s your source? Why do you believe that’s best? Have you considered the other side?” If they can’t intelligently (and calmly) answer the majority of those questions then take their opinion with a grain of salt. Make a point to independently research any claims and gather more information.
Quora, a question-and-answer website where questions are asked, answered, edited, and organized by its community of users in the form of opinions, has an excellent thread in response to the question, How Do I start to Look to Learn About Politics? While you’re there, look around and search (or post) your own questions. The power of this site is the ability for many people to share many different opinions that are vetted by the community (upvotes rise to the top).
Take some time and complete the I Side With: Political Quiz. It will ask questions about many issues (and provide more information and help context) and let you know which candidates your beliefs best align with. This is an excellent way to shut out the negative campaign messages, gossip, and preconceived notions you may have about particular candidates.
Democracy is an endless experiment, and every few years, we get a chance to speak up to help keep it on the right track. This means taking an active role in understanding the issues, participating in conversations, and voting with your unique voice. Avoiding controversy enables us to cling to unfounded, obstinate opinions. Be better than that. Be unafraid to ask questions, challenge your assumptions, and step outside your comfort zone.
Do you like to talk about politics? Do you have questions or resources to share? What do you think of our current political climate?