Did anyone else grow up learning not to discuss politics, religion, or money? The basic idea behind banning these topics stems from the belief that they’re too emotionally provocative and, let’s face it, nobody wants a food fight at Sunday supper.
Unfortunately, banning these topics also produces a culture in which we learn that disagreement should be stifled and hidden away, rather than recognized and discussed in healthy conversations that have the potential to broaden our understandings of the world.
If I surround myself only with people who agree with me, I limit my ability to learn how people develop different opinions.
I don’t get to hear how my neighbors, friends, and family have experienced life differently than me. I don’t get to consider how I might be wrong. This is dangerous because then, when we do disagree, I can just believe other people are stupid, misguided, mean, or stubborn…a belief that is unfair and irresponsible.
In this environment, anyone who disagrees with me becomes an enemy.
In this environment it is much easier to bully, call people names, and issue personal attacks that fall outside the scope of the original disagreement.
In order to avoid the tension of disagreement that we’ve been taught is bad, we often proclaim,
“I’m just not political!”
But we are. We have opinions, beliefs, values, and ideas that speak to our needs, wants, and desires. Silencing these opinions, or worse, only sharing them with people we know will agree with us, removes us unfairly from our communities and does us a personal disservice. Because, guess what, the people making decisions about laws, ordinances, and the government of our town ARE political. And the only way they know what matters to us is for us to tell them. And the only way that our neighbors know what we want is for us to tell them.
It’s time for us ALL to become political. There are lots of ways to make this happen. Here’s one.
Public comment is available at the Council meetings each month. All you need to do is visit this LINK to sign up. You have three minutes to let the Council and everyone in attendance hear your voice.
Do you like something you see? Tell them.
Do you think something needs to change? Tell them.
Do you disagree with something? Tell them.
Will you always get what you want? No. There are over 8,000 of us in Charlestown. Pleasing everyone is impossible. But being political means monitoring the government process, letting your voice be heard, calling those who represent us out when they have wronged us, and commending them when they do good things.
You’ll see me often at council meetings. Occasionally I’ll make public comment. Often my public comment will be one of disagreement. But you’ll also see me being kind in my disagreement. I can oppose the decision of a council member and still demonstrate compassion for his sick father. I can dispute the Council’s lack of action on deserted homes in Pleasant Ridge and still thank them for improving our sidewalks. I can disagree with the Mayor’s plan for redevelopment, and still appreciate kind words of condolence he offered when my family suffered the loss of a loved one.
But you will not see me call names, speak over, or make fun of anyone with whom I disagree.
I AM political, but I will never step over your right to be political, too.