It is much easier to stay quiet than interject yourself into the burning trash fire of political conversation. It’s loud and abrasive. Relationships get damaged. So, why not just stay quiet?
In Martin Luther King Jr’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” he “[confesses] that [he] is not afraid of the word tension.” Nonviolent tension is necessary to the progression of society. In MLK’s words it “creates a crisis and [establishes] such creative tension that a community that has consistently refused to negotiate is forced to confront the issue.” By not being afraid of the tension, by confronting it, it puts urgency onto the topic, forcing full ideas to be said and debated. When you sit on the sidelines, where do your needs and wants enter the conversation?
I know that these conversations are unnerving and awkward, but how else are we supposed to learn our wants and needs as a whole? If we allow only the affluent senators and congressmen to have these tension-filled conversations, where do our voices come in beyond our November 2nd vote?
So, you don’t sit on the sidelines and you have these conversations no matter how awkward or unnerving. When done nonviolently and with respect, political conversation returns to the hands of the elector. We cannot rely on our representatives to know what we think. If we do not have our own debate and form collective demands from our government, they will use their power to benefit the ones that do talk like the wealthy corporations. Staying silent is staying compliant to the lack of attentiveness towards the needs of the governed like veteran’s programs and income equality.
Even if you think your small conversation will do nothing in the large scheme of the country, know that voicing even one opinion is better than none. If you say something, someone will hear it, someone will think about it, and someone will intertwine it into their own thoughts. If you are afraid of the criticism, try to open yourself to it. Listen to others as you wish they would listen to you. Political conversation does not have to ruin your relationships. It can be insightful and productive. In my own life and my own practice of sharing my opinions, I have been able to enter the tension, keep a cool head, and earn respect from those who disagree with me. Hopefully, you take strides to enter the tension. Remember, be respectful, nonviolent, and open to criticism. By doing that, your voice as a citizen can be heard.