An interview in the New York Times with playwright/satirist/director Robert O’Hara encapsulated the trajectory of my year–the intent of my December 31, 2016 resolution–with this statement: “Being private is not helping.” Sadly, I did not articulate my goal to become an advocate of change nearly as clearly. But that is the gist of it: be outspoken, out there, real, loud, visible. Granted, as a people-pleasing, conflict avoiding, occasionally passive-aggressive introvert, my out there may not be very loud. But my ears ring and my palms sweat as soon as I hit that “send” or “publish” or “post” button.
Hubris does not drive me. I don’t think I have any better ideas than the next person about how to fix the tax plan, prevent mass killings, or safeguard medicaid and social security. But I have found that avoiding discourse, NOT talking about what is going on around us is not helpful. For years, the general rule has been, “don’t talk politics” at dinner, in the grocery store aisle, in the back yard with your neighbors. Wrong. Talking politics is exactly what we should be doing, and values, and how we voted and why. And religion. Yes, we should talk about religion. How else will we understand our neighbors, the Muslim owner of the local deli, the Vietnamese manicurist, or the banker from Ghana who processed our car loan?
I live in a small town where I am in the minority: I don’t own a gun. I would benefit from better understanding why my neighbors do. Then, perhaps, I can advocate for gun control more effectively.
My next New Year’s resolution is more of the same, because being private is not helping. Explore your discomfort zone, people. A diverse, collaborative society does not happen unless everyone shares their views. Listen. Listen loudly.