Person over Platform: A Rare Word on Politics

I don’t often publicly state my political views or alignment, and I’m not going to do so here, either. I’ve been called “apolitical” and “politically unplugged.” I don’t disagree with either. I pay enough attention to make decisions about voting, and that’s about it. On the rare occasion I do post something remotely political, I tend to let those who comment fight their own battles without getting involved.

Last week was difficult, and there was a LOT of talk on social media about the election. As usual, I mostly stayed out of it. (It helped that I had my wisdom teeth out on Election Day, so I was pretty much a zombie on painkillers at least through Thursday.) But I got to thinking about WHY I stay out of it, and this is what I came up with.

I choose not to announce my political leanings because I don’t want to be judged, either positively or negatively, on them. I want people to like or dislike me for who I am, not for what I believe politically. And then, if I’m lucky enough to develop a meaningful relationship with someone, we can have honest, mature discourse about what we believe, whether we agree or not. We can do this because we first grew to know and respect each other’s humanity. Because we are all, in fact, humans.

To know people first will undoubtedly provide some clues as to why they believe what they believe; otherwise, we give in to the temptation to make a snap decision about their character, based solely on political stance. Maybe honest, mature discourse won’t change any minds, and relationships might still have to end if the differences are insurmountable. But isn’t that better than slinging mud, particularly on social media platforms, and promoting vitriol and hate, which then leads to the inability to work together or even listen to one another? 

Without sounding too impressed with myself, I think I might be onto something here. I think if we started putting personhood before platform, we might start to understand each other better. We might even start to understand ourselves better, instead of identifying with a political party simply because it’s blue or red. We might be able to collaborate and compromise better. We might stop seeing politics as black and white, wrong and right, and understand that we can head down a path that addresses everyone’s needs and concerns. Two of the most frustrating things I’ve seen recently on social media are people blocking others with dissenting opinions, and people deleting their comments after an uncomfortable “discussion” began. In our stubborn commitment to our platforms, we are silencing people, and when we silence them, we inhibit our ability to understand and grow.

When I was growing up, voting preferences weren’t discussed in our household. My parents didn’t even share with each other whom they were voting for. It was a private matter. Now we live in a world of yard signs and personal campaigning on social media and anger-filled public demonstrations. And it’s driving us apart. Maybe it doesn’t quite have to be secrets between spouses, but maybe it would be better if we kept our cards a little closer to our chests, instead of shouting what we’re about before we even walk into a room.

I mean, at this point, isn’t it worth it to give anything a try?

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