5 Lessons For The Politically Passionate
I realize I probably don't even need to say this, but being politically passionate is probably my largest identifier. I am passionate about EVERYTHING, especially politics. When I meet someone who says "I don't care about politics", I look at them green with envy because oh how I wish I didn't care so much, but I do. And I know there are a lot of people who also care a lot. I'm an empath, meaning when I watch a documentary about child sex slavery in Thailand I hurt in a very real, deep way and I empathize with them. I immediately want to solve the problem and take away the pain and do so by feeling the pain. I get that this is unhealthy, and I'm working on it, but it's who I am. That being said... it is very, very difficult for me to debate with folks who don't care about the suffering of others and are individualistic in nature. I'm not a "liberal" or a "conservative", I just, to be quite frank, give a shit about justice.
So... whether you're an empath, a liberal, a conservative, or whatever label you want to give yourself, if you care then you're going to get into arguments. This country is so divided, and again my heart breaks for it. These are 4 lessons that I've learned when it comes to speaking your mind (godspeed to those of us who try to make a change).
1. Don't invalidate the other persons experience
I'm starting to realize that as an empath, this is a lot easier for me than it is for other people. When I speak about immigration with my dad (a conservative by any stretch of the imagination), I'm not going to dismiss the struggles he went through as a Sheriff working on the Arizona border, or as a corrections officer, or as a business owner, or as a father, or as someone competing for a job in the economy, or someone who can't afford to pay even more for their food than they already do, etc. It is because I understand these things that I can get through to him. We can discuss the policies in a respectful and decent way even though we disagree.
It is very important to remember that if you invalidate the other person's feelings and experiences by labeling them in any sort of simple term (racist, liberal, bigot, etc), then they are not going to listen to you. How can you convince someone that you have a point if they stop listening to you? And think of how you would like to be treated during a debate and be that person. I for one would love to not be interrupted, to not be called names such as privileged, liberal, or any other identifier they have stored up, and I would love if the other person really thought about what I am saying instead of dismissing it right away. Therefore... that's what I will be doing to them. Compassion doesn't mean you agree with someone, and it doesn't mean you have to like them, it just means that you recognize them as a person.
2. Have an open mind
Again... both sides are guilty of this. If I could use one term to describe my lease favorite kind of debater... it's condescending. You do not know everything. I do not care what your background is, how long you've been studying politics, how long you have even been alive, you don't know everything and real solutions are not going to be brought to the table if you are an arrogant asshole who believes that you are right and anyone else who disagrees with you is wrong. When you approach people with your ideas it should come across as a discussion, not as a lecture. And of course I don't mean be accepting of blatant racism and sexism, etc. But you can't fight racism by brushing it off as just a silly idea only entertained by those who are beneath you in every way, it is very real and very problematic and lives are at stake because of it so you need to treat this issue very carefully.
3. Stand on the balcony
Whenever there's an argument there's one person who says their opinion, and then there's the responder (who has serious guts) and begins to tell the first person why they're wrong. If you imagine these two people on a street, arguing back and forth, then imagine yourself standing on a balcony watching the argument happen. This person can be the voice of reason. This person can see how both people are both wrong and right and remind the two on the street who the enemy is. The enemy is world suffering, the enemy is bigotry on all levels, the enemy is poverty, the enemy is abuse. What the enemy is not is the other person.
Someone has to be the one who steps back from the debate, looks at it with fresh eyes, and comes up with a better solution that the two in the street cannot come up with because they're too busy arguing the same argument over and over again. The secret to peace is a community that circles around every conflict and doesn't allow it to escalate. We need to stop fighting for a moment and talk.
There's a great TED talk that talks about this: here
(If you're serious about peace and want to know what it's going to take, you need to watch that TED talk...)
The reason why this is important is because the politically passionate are the ones who are going to make a difference, for better or for worse. Personally, I want the world constantly moving towards peace, and the politically passionate need to be the best versions of people in society because we are who everyone else is going to get their opinions from.
4. Remember that words matter
Kindness, compassion, and empathy are skills that you have to constantly practice. If you are an advocate for your cause then every single thing you say or do or post on Facebook speaks for the entire cause. Make sure that everything you write, post, and say is intentional and comes from a place of kindness, compassion, or empathy. Make sure that everything you write, post, and say doesn't alienate the people you need on your side, that it doesn't destroy relationships, that it doesn't make the cause look ignorant or uneducated (*cough* fake news), and that it doesn't "otherize" anyone else in the population (other than the racists, bigots, etc).
The one thing that every religion has in common is that it preaches the golden rule. Every single religion says that you need to really think about how you want to be treated and then treat others in that way. It is really that simple. Ask yourself if how you're treating this person is how you want to be treated, and if it's not, then don't do it. And you must have concern for everyone, love your enemies, and really get to know one another. If you claim to be religious, of any religion, this is a crucial component of faith.
5. Take the "other" to lunch
This is a not-so-fun, but important, practice that was just told to me. If you're a Democrat, take a Republican to lunch and talk to them on a personal level. Again, you don't have to agree, you don't have to be friends, but you do need to see the "other" as a human being who just disagrees with you on where they want the country to go. This is how the country can come together again. You can talk to someone about why they voted for Trump, even though you disagree with his demeanor and racist comments. You can talk to someone who voted for Clinton, even though they were originally a Bernie supporter and weren't thrilled with the choice. You can talk about how you both grew up in the working class or whatever, so long as you're finding commonalities to talk about.
Hearing the "others" story is super important and it's something this country is not doing. Hang out with anyone outside of those who look like you and think like you. It's not going to be easy, but if you really want to make a difference and be listened to, and have your ideas spread, you must first listen to the opposition and understand where they're coming from. Again, you don't have to agree with them, but you do need to understand why they believe in what they do. And as the face of your cause you have now just convinced this "other" person that all liberals or all conservatives aren't assholes who think they're right and don't listen to the other side.
To change the game you have to change the frame.
PSA: This does not mean you can allow people to be mean to you or harass you. If you do not feel that the discourse is happening in a safe environment you are free from these reminders. Honestly, there are also the people who will never listen. I do believe in lost causes. You can't make someone treat you with respect, and if they don't, you have no obligation to respect them by giving them your time. Move on with tact and grace and try with someone else.