The past few months have been difficult for anyone paying attention to current events. The presidential campaign and Trump’s subsequent election showed us that we still have a very long way to go as a society and that now is not a time for complacency. Many of us have found ourselves taking part in protests, writing to elected officials, and talking about politics and current events more than any one of us born after the Vietnam area ever have.
It has also been physically exhausting to hear the rhetoric of hate that has come with some of these recent political changes. We have people who pride themselves on their Christianity turning their backs on immigrants and refugees all while holding Bibles and posting religious quotes to social media. We have women whose ancestors fought for the rights they take for granted each day stating that they don’t need to continue to fight for equal rights because they already have equal rights Blog on the Women’s March. This is in the face of the recent efforts to restrict access to abortion, when the reality is that pay is unequal between men and woman in the same position, and when Breitbart, the invention of Trump’s current chief advisor, has featured an article as recently as 2015 about why women should stay out of the STEM subjects because we’re taking the place of men Breitbart Article on Women in Stem.
Despite this, or maybe because of this, any voice that speaks calmly for justice and peace seems to echo more loudly and makes me realize that not all protests have signs and megaphones; some protests are as simple as having a conversation with someone who disagrees with you.
My husband has been one of these people whose voice has echoed in the darkness. On paper, my husband is in a demographic that one would assume is a Trump supporter based on what is reported in the news. He’s from a small town in a rural area. He likes to hunt and has grown up with guns. He spent his winters on a snowmobile and his summers camping. He attended some college courses, but didn’t go away to a major university. He has worked hard since he was a teenager in the retail industry and has never been abroad except for a few cruises to the Caribbean and Mexico. However, his background has not stopped him from seeing what is right and how we should treat each other. It also hasn’t stopped him from speaking up to those around him who do not believe as he does–to continue to articulate the belief that people deserve to be treated fairly and that we cannot judge an entire group for the actions of a few.
My husband’s acts of protest are more subtle, and I would argue, a lot more effective than mine. I hear him on the phone with family members who talk about Isis as though it is representative of Islam as a religion. Rather than staying silent because it’s uncomfortable to disagree with family, he will speak up about why that family member’s opinion is wrong. He uses facts and examples of real people who disprove those stereotypes.. He does not give up when people he knows cite “facts” that are untrue, but instead, takes the time to explain why this is wrong shows the many examples that contradict that particular opinion. While I get frustrated and want to shut down after continuing to hear these opinions, he remains patient and kind in an effort to show his audience another way to think about others.
His more measured and quiet approach is a powerful voice against ignorance and hate. Instead of giving up on people who refuse to see facts or who cite TMZ as a source, he will take the time to speak with them because he wants these people to be better versions of themselves and to make the world a better place overall.
He serves as an example of true freedom of speech; rather than just shutting down and dismissing these peoples’ opinions, he listens and offers a different point of view.
Protests and demonstrations, letters and phone calls to elected officials, are all critical to our political and humanitarian process. However, another powerful action that takes place every day is the one between people who take the time to listen to others and to attempt to talk through differences of opinion–even ones that are as emotional and polarizing as issues of race, gender, sexuality and religion. By taking the time to listen and not giving up on those around us, we have the opportunity to change the tide one conversation at a time. There are those people who will never change and who refuse to listen; however, we cannot allow that to be an excuse to give up trying to work with those who are open to at least listening to a conversation with someone who disagrees with their world view.