I’d rather we focus on the ends rather than criticize the means.
We just got over one election and now mid-terms are already ramping up. In six months, petitions will circulate and we'll start considering candidates. After the last election, which, frankly, doesn't feel over yet, we’re talking about politics now more than we ever have. It gets dicey fast. Sometimes, it’s hostile right out of the gate.
There are days when I feel like I walk on political eggshells. I see a lot of angry people on both sides of the aisle. I see it on social media. I hear it in conversations around me in public. Was it always like this?
The first election that I voted in was 1992. I was solidly a Democrat back then and it read so on my voter registration card. I was passionate about it. I was everything you could imagine an 18 year-old first time voter would be. I enjoyed talking about my stance on politics. Now? It feels risky.
To be honest, I get a little twitchy when asked what my political affiliation is. That’s ridiculous. My convictions are strong and forged out of decades of experience, learning, and self education.
On dating apps, I have my political affiliation listed as liberal. Saying “moderate” seems a little wishy-washy. Some men have no problem asking me questions that seem like they’re immediately mocking me. Do I just want everything to be totally free here or what? Other times, it brings forth unwanted commentary. “I own guns. I hope you don’t want to take them away.” This was actually said to me.
More times than not, I seem to downplay my political beliefs. It’s not to hide from them but because I get frustrated fast. I feel the need to reaffirm with people that though I may be liberal, I’m not one of “those“ liberals. I don’t even know what that means. I’m proud of my beliefs, I just hate the stereotyping.
Certain people have an idea of me based on my political beliefs that is grossly inaccurate. Just like people have an image of feminists that I also find completely off the mark. I’m tired of defending that too, but it seems easier.
I know that most people are not going to get into the level of conversation about my political beliefs that I’d like to get into. What I really want is to be able to sit down with somebody and have an intelligent conversation about why we believe what we believe and respect each other’s perspectives while asking questions that encourage a continuation of the conversation. That happens never.
Usually, what happens is that when politics come up and someone realizes I lean left, they immediately jump to calling me a socialist or other members of the Democratic Party communists. It’s a narrow minded viewpoint I can’t endure.
I see my friends who fall on the other side of the aisle deal with the same thing. Once someone says they’re a Republican, I’ve heard people make comments about how people who support the president are morons. The other person is immediately on the defensive, even if they don’t support the president. That doesn’t feel good.
When this happens, I know it’s better to not entertain a conversation because it’s never going to go anywhere. I’ve gotten good at realizing when the juice isn’t worth the squeeze in talking to someone. Brick walls are not solid conversation partners.
So, what if we reframed our responses should somebody ask us where we find ourselves on the political spectrum? I often feel unprepared to answer the question when I shouldn’t.
What we need is an elevator speech. If we could simply summarize how we feel politically into a 20 second statement, maybe we’d all be better off.
A well practiced statement that is succinct and to the point, that we’re prepared with, removes the need for us and anyone else to label us. It’s not about what’s on our voter registration card. It’s not a party line we draw. It’s about what we believe in. That’s what’s important.
When companies give an elevator speech it not about the name of the company and what product they make. It’s about who they make the product for and why do it and why it’s important. My statement of political beliefs shouldn’t be far off from that.
The goal is to create an ends statement so that others understand what I feel we need to work toward without immediately jumping to conclusions and criticism on what means we use to justify the ends.
If my stance was more well thought out people might be less likely to put me into a box. What I believe in is just as important to me as what in my life has compelled me to believe that. If you ask me if I’m a Democrat or a Republican, I’ll have an answer:
“Well, I firmly believe that our country is best served if we serve everyone, rather than the few, with as much humanity and resources as possible so that people feel treated equally and have equal opportunities to a experience quality of life our country would be proud of.”
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