My parents don’t discuss politics. I don’t even know who my mother voted for in any of the elections I’ve been alive for, although I can confidently assume her most recent vote parallels my views. My father has participated in fifteen presidential elections and the only advice he can offer me is don’t discuss politics and religion in public. I think I know why he would reiterate this now more than ever. In the past couple months, I’ve gotten myself into trouble with family members and friends whose opinions and beliefs counter what I uphold as human dignity. At the first mention of Trump running for election, I would poke fun at him or refrain from the conversation, but now that his presidency has become a reality, my impulse to act on my beliefs stems from necessity. I can no longer stay silent.
Still, I don’t entirely know what to do with all this. I am processing my political thoughts and even as I write this, I question everything. Am I articulating my beliefs the best I can? Who did I intend to reach? Will they understand me? I work best when I can motion through my experiences, when I can talk my thoughts into existence, even if that means talking to myself. Introspective discussions, however, tend to go smoother than outward conversations, but if I let that govern my actions, if I stay within my comfort zone, I fear I won’t accomplish anything because I would have failed to build human connections. With this, I’m beginning to learn the difficulty in discussing controversial beliefs because I rarely walk away feeling satisfied. My younger self would speak its mind often without questioning if X is what I really mean to say, but now I have to equip myself differently and consider options A through Z.
Perhaps it’s part of growing up: all the obstacles of dialogue I’m not quite sure how to overcome. The biggest obstacle seems to be the translation. I am a writer in love with language, but only now am I curiously aware of the infinite ways to interpret one single product of thought, with a particular focus on the consequences that follow. I say X and they hear Y or they think I mean to say Z. It’s convoluted and training us to listen only to what we want to hear. I want to hear it all; I need to know how we’re made up of the same universal matter but can’t seem to understand each other. In this respect, I find the challenge in having these conversations is establishing a common ground, a shared understanding of concepts and their true meaning. How can we understand each other if we’re using the same word but apply different definitions? Can there be one standard definition? How do I correct this?
I believe language is very well alive and my words may live forever, and in this respect, I’d be a fool to think language is not susceptible to evolution. I’m less interested in how this evolution happens and more interested in what this means for us. We are a species equipped to speak language into existence ever since our mothers breathed language into their amniotic fluid. It’s been around us even before we entered the world and we’re still learning how to use it to our advantage, whether that advantage is for an individual’s own personal benefit or one that contributes to our collective consciousness. Either way, having consideration for how we use language almost always gets messy.
I find myself having to choose my words carefully, and often times, explicitly define the way in which these words are being used. It’s exhausting and somewhat repetitive, but without this caution, I end up creating a disconnect with the people I love. And the hardest conversations are usually with the ones we love. The crux of my thoughts revolve around the political state of our society, and this extends well beyond a government context. It never feels like I’m against the president; instead, it feels like I’m pinned against those I don’t agree with. If I strike a conversation with someone on the other end of the altercation, it’s as if I have established ground with an enemy, and that is not how it should be.
My childhood friend tries to avoid politics altogether, but if I get the chance to put my two cents in, she tells me to be careful as if I’ve triggered her. At this point, I respect her pull back from the conversation and end it there, but I’m left extremely unsettled. Since when do I have to filter through my uncensored thoughts with the most important people in my life? How can she just walk away from something that affects her? I can’t seem to separate my political thoughts from everyday life and because of it, I’m shut out until I can learn to discuss small talk. Or until I can learn how to cater my thoughts to those hearing me out. My intentions are purely curious and passionately involved, but if one word is misinterpreted, my thoughts get lost in translation. At that point, we’ve started something we cannot adequately finish, and I don’t think I’m the only one experiencing this hiccup. For now, I’ll work through my thoughts further, and if anyone is listening, I appreciate it. It’s not easy.