Many people believe that we live in the most politically divisive time.
Almost everyone has their opinions, their political dogma, doctrine and law, all of which are unshakeable, unmovable, unchangeable.
On Reddit, message boards and comment sections, you can find anyone and everyone screaming their political opinions into the void.
But face-to-face, we fall silent. Or we become part of the crowd, participating in a protest, one of many. When it comes to one-on-one conversation, many of us lose the ability to voice the opinions we believe in so firmly, the ideals we’re so passionate about.
And sure, screaming into the void is helpful. It’s comforting to express yourself while remaining faceless, unknown, unaccountable.
I’ve seen my mother bite her tongue at the dinner table; though she disagrees with what others say, she’s outnumbered. I’ve witnessed friend groups refuse to address anything political over fears of being too divisive, of hurting anyone’s feelings, of causing an argument.
But a person’s politics are not separate from who they are. A person’s politics are their world view. They’re based on their morals, their beliefs, their ideals.
We can discuss politics politely. We can debate. We can even argue. But we need to talk about it. We need to be honest. Otherwise we can be blindsided by the very things we thought we didn’t have to pay attention to.
Whether you support him or not, the fact is that Donald Trump was elected because a silent majority crept up through the polls while the rest of us treated him like a joke that everyone was in on.
Now, in our generation, most don’t want to admit that they’re a Trump supporter. And others don’t want to admit to a Trump supporter that they hate Trump. They don’t want to talk about the death penalty, about free college, about universal healthcare, about abortion, about immigration.
No one wants to argue. No one wants to know. And the middle wants to sit on the sidelines, ever observing, ever silent.
According to Pew Research Center, only 17% of people are “very comfortable” talking about politics with someone they don’t know that well. And 25% are comfortable talking about Donald Trump.
But we learn from talking to others. We learn from discussion, from debate. How can one, as a person, change and grow and develop as a person without ever interacting with others over the topics that affect us most?
In high school, I was regularly the most liberal person in the room. I was ready to debate or discuss politics at any given moment. I’ve found middle ground with conservatives. I’ve agreed with moderates. It’s not impossible. It’s not unthinkable. It just takes effort and a willingness to be open, honest and respectful.
That being said, talking about politics doesn’t protect you from the consequences of your politics. Personally, I’m not afraid to end a friendship or a relationship over differences in politics. If what you believe infringes on the rights of anyone, then others have the right to disagree, to leave or to end things.
I’m aware that I come from a place of privilege in that I’m White and from a middle-class background. But I also identify as part of the LGBT+ community, and I’m a woman.
As I’ve gotten older, I have less patience for those ideals and beliefs that limit and discriminate against myself and those around me.
But I want to have these conversations. I want to learn and I want to teach. If we can’t communicate, if we can’t become more knowledgeable, more well-rounded and better informed, then what are we doing? And what can we expect from those who lead us?
We have to be comfortable talking about politics. At least, we have to try. Politics are not an isolated, abstract topic. It’s important because it’s what affects us most.
For those of us who are not White, not straight, not male, not Christian, not anything-part-of-the-ordinary, we have to talk about this. We have to know what those around us believe, not only to protect ourselves, but also to educate ourselves.