speaking out

I am a Republican. There. I said it. 

As a nice Southern girl, there are three things that I don’t talk about: 1) my political affiliation; 2) my religion; and 3) my money. I was taught by good motherly instruction and through personal observation that these three topics are the devil’s trinity. I’ve seen families and friendships rent because of irreconcilable differences of opinion, religious ego, and the loose change in someone’s pocket. To entertain these things is to court danger; but lately, my buttons have been pushed and abused by a combination of unforeseen forces, and I’m speaking out.            

I can’t accept that politics, religion, and economics are fair criteria for sizing up a person. As a young girl many years ago, I observed that even if nice ladies did talk about these things they whispered certain parts: “I met the couple who moved into the house on the corner the other day. They’re Episcopalians.” On the other hand, the more masculine manner of discourse was to cock your head to the front and side in the most redneck way possible and limit your responses to singular broken-syllable words: “Dem-o-crat.” Other ways of talking about the forbidden was to spell it out letter by letter or simply replace the key word with raised eyebrows and pursed lips. I never questioned these mannerisms although I never understood why it mattered in the first place; but I did learn to recuse myself from pushy conversations in which my own identity, opinion, or preference would have resulted in being insulted and then ostracized.

I started thinking about this a lot when I worked on my certificate in communications from Duke University. I was surrounded by writers and educators who assumed that everyone in the class was a Democrat. I never stood up and said, “Hey, wait a minute. I’m one of those dumbo-eared skanks you just generalized.” But the topic was definitely a ditch I was unwilling to die in so I just took it like a sweet little Southern woman whose manners vetoed rebuttals. I did, however, take a bit of self-righteous pleasure in thinking that I would have never made such uncouth remarks.

I can’t really say that all those assumptions and generalizations insulted me, but it did cause me to think about the lines of division and the need for American voters to pause for a moment of silence. I think we need to see each other and hear each other past political affiliations—as individuals capable of thinking and making decisions without negative ad campaigns, bumper stickers, and political catch-phrases.

It is dispiriting to me as an American voter when those I truly want to respect just don’t get it. So much of what we process in election years gets contaminated by personal encounters such as those I experienced at Duke. (And I’m not saying everyone and everything at Duke was like that. In fact, I’ve been told by other students that if anything, Duke is “conservative.”) In a perfect democracy, there would be equal regard for the common people constituting the source of political authority.                          

There’s too much talk going on. And not enough silence.     

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About writemyline

Ride like a knight. Write like a warrior.
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2 Responses to speaking out

  1. Jim Buie says:

    I like this well-written post, even though I come at the subject of politics from a very different perspective. I grew up debating subjects with my uncle, mother, best friend and brothers-in-law, and sometimes (often) we would switch sides in order to disagree, to test the other person’s logic, because the fun was in the disagreement (too much agreement wasn’t fun). Out in the world, like you I have been disturbed by the vitriol and lack of appreciation for the ART of persuasion and argument. Today people too easily engage in personal attacks, which is a sure sign of having lost the argument. I was so concerned about this phenomenon that I started a section of my blog called “the art of persuasion, argument.”

    http://jimbuie.blogs.com/journal/art_of_persuasion_argument/index.html

    Regards,

    Jim Buie

  2. writemyline says:

    Jim,
    Indeed, there is a lack of respect for the art of persuasion in contemporary politics due largely in part to the growing number of writers and commentators who I might categorized as opportunistic, plundering loud-mouths. Their contribution to democracy isn’t worth the paper it exists on or the airwaves it rides unless one considers and appreciates the preface of its constitutional support.

    Contemporary political controversy as a catalyst for change is largely ineffective because eventually it pulls in issues that have no role in the American political system. Having exhausted the truths of an issue, some writers and commentators excavate the personal lives and histories of others to further their own public identity and profits. (Perhaps they are addicted to the sound of their own voice?) If these mercenary writers were admirable political activists, there would be certain sacrifices—such as the absence of personal agenda.

    People need to reflect on and integrate the information they receive, but when it is tainted with extraneous and inappropriate content there is little opportunity for paradigm shifts other than, perhaps, an extremist or militant one. I choose political literature very carefully nowadays because so many books that line the non-fiction shelf are plagued with lies of omission and half-truths.

    Although this link is geared toward collegiate political research and theory writing, it’s worth a bookmark: http://www.unc.edu/depts/wcweb/handouts/polisci.html

    I appreciate your comments…

    Sincerely,
    Deb

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