The country is a mess right now. Political fanatism has ended friendships, broken families and divided this country more than ever. While we may not all agree on how we got here, most of us agree that the country is in big trouble unless we can reverse this unfortunate trend.
Some people deal with the problem by avoiding the topic of politics altogether. I understand the desire to avoid conflict, but it is not the best solution. The Italian poet and philosopher, Dante, wrote, “The hottest places in hell are reserved for those who, in times of great moral crisis, maintain their neutrality”. I always thought that was a badass quote, and the thought behind it is why I made being politically savvy one of the tenets of the NAHREP 10. Our country was built on the idea of political discourse. If we don’t discuss politics, we leave the astounding power of our government totally in the hands of politicians, corporations and the interest groups that support them. Trust me, we don’t want that either. Rather, we should all strive to be informed, active participants in our political process. Now, please take note, being informed does not mean living in a perpetual state of political combat. And, while civility when it comes to politics seems impossible right now, I believe it can be done. Here are five rules that I try to follow when it comes to political dialogue:
- Define yourself by what you do, not by how you vote
- Talk more about what you favor than what you are against
- Criticize policies not people
- Assume that most people are good
- Avoid repeating content that spews hatred and unfounded conspiracies
The first one is most important to me. Today, too many people define themselves by their politics – always posting political memes on social media and sharing their condescending opinions. They rarely shut it off. Those people live in a bubble with a handful of “friends” who agree with them. However, in the grand scheme, they are nothing but useless noise and most people just tune them out. Unless you’re a politician, don’t be defined by your politics – be defined by what you do and by who you are. Remember, people are more influenced by what they see than by what they are told. I admire people who are happy, successful, and who contribute more to our society than their opinions. Like most people, I am much more likely to be influenced by people that I admire. Stand for what you believe in, but aim to be a person of substance whose political opinions are only part of who you are.