I pretty much stopped talking politics a few years ago.

For a good part of my adult years, I’m ashamed to say that I viewed people who didn’t care about politics as not quite three-dimensional, not quite deserving of serious attention.

*Then I met Richard who just about never talks politics. I thought that was just strange.

But after awhile, his reasoning won me out. There are many important spheres of life, many serious, even urgent topics to talk about. Life. After-life. Spirituality. Relationships. Health. Emotions. Morals. And he preferred to talk about those things.

Now, sometimes these topics may actually overlap with politics, but way back when, I was unknowingly engaged in political determinism–at some level I believed that politics (and to a large extent government conduct) determined how we live our lives, down to the very personal.

But I now believe I was wrong.

Politics and government don’t control you, except if you’re living in an extreme dictatorship or impossibly corrupt regime, and even then, it depends. A culture and society are surely influenced by its government, but in a democratic republic such as the United States, the culture and society greatly influence, and in many areas control, the government and political expression.

Fear and Loathing

I’ve lived in quite a few states (and also some other countries) and until the late 1980s I felt quite comfortable, wherever I was, of speaking my mind. Politically most of my friends thought the same way I did (or at least, the ones who spoke up did), but I always was an outlier on certain issues. I didn’t toe the party line, fully. In the 1990s I finally learned to be quiet about these one or two issues that were at odds with others. I largely agreed with everyone I knew pretty much about what was acceptable beliefs politically and socially, but even then I knew I was mouthing a party line–inside, something wasn’t sitting right with me.

All it took was a bit of self-examination to realize that a lot of what I thought were my authentic viewpoints were mere talking points I’d been parroting. Pretty embarrassing.

Finally, in the early 2000s, I realized that I had real moral and ethical qualms about the politics I’d been supporting all these years. So, I tested the waters of dissent by gingerly sharing some thoughts I had, some reasoning that differed from what my friends thought.

I was unprepared for the vitriol I ended up on the receiving end of. I wasn’t merely disagreed with, I was attacked. Three people I considered my closest friends, one who had been my dearest friend for over a decade, dropped me. She gave me several chances to “come back to my senses” and when I asked her to allow us to agree to disagree, and for her to respect my opinion the same way I respected hers, she told me I was “evil.”

The emotional pain I felt was real. So was the stress of being ostracized for speaking my mind. But I made peace with the situation and accepted that this is simply the way things are.

The State of Free Speech and Tolerance in America“, is a recent study by the Libertarian Cato Institute. Their findings show that “58% of Americans believe the political climate today prevents them from saying things they believe.”

It’s good to know that I’m not the only one.


*C.R. is blogging at Therapy Soup today.