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The politics of politics

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I consider myself a very tolerant person. Actually, I’m accepting almost to a fault, and I can usually see all sides of an issue. I will definitely listen to everyone’s side of an issue. This trait has helped me in parenting, managing a staff, and getting along with friends of all beliefs. I generally don’t mind what anyone thinks or does, as long as he or she is not hurting anyone, of course. To each his own is a good rule of thumb.

However, I began to feel ruffled a few months ago when I would go on my social media accounts and see disparaging remarks about so many people who I like and respect. It felt unsettling. As the months progressed, it only worsened. Now, I don’t expect any of us to endorse the same political candidate or have the exact same beliefs, but it seems that Facebook and Twitter, and even Instagram, have become a playground for people to be hateful, vengeful, and outright insane, mirroring the road this current election has taken.

When I was growing up and learned that people should not discuss politics or religion in public, I never quite understood why. As I grew older, I realized that the myriad opinions among any given group of people could be colossal and opposing. In addition, when those opinions are threatened, they can trigger a deep sensitivity that hovers around the person’s beliefs on love, life, family, and patriotism. Unfortunately, not everyone can keep a rational head when triggered.

Everyday, I see people — many that I liked and respected — act like unruly 5-year-olds as they diligently fight to defend their view. Even worse, I see those same people spew poison with the ease of a black widow spider. I can’t imagine that these people would intentionally want to display their worst selves to the world, or even worse, to their own kids … and in writing.

As parents, our kids are intently watching how we behave, and reading what we put out there, or saying to a spouse, neighbor, or friend. How can we tell our kids not to bully others and then go on hateful rants as easily as we take a breath? I respect that everyone has their own ideas on how we can make this world better, but change can only come from working together with clear, rational minds and open hearts.

It comes to mind that another old saying still rings true, “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Of course, we all have the right to free speech, but that doesn’t mean we have to choose the lowest form of ourselves to put on display. I much prefer the posts (and campaigns) that praise its choice of candidate rather than disparage the other. Even though we live a world where everything is flaunted, often disgustingly and unedited on Twitter, we need to hold ourselves to a higher standard, and consider how much of what we write online is what we would actually say at the water cooler or at a party.

Words are things. That’s something that Maya Angelou, the great poet and writer, always said. Words have the power to bring people down or lift people up, deflate or inspire, and instigate vengeance or call out for peace, so let’s commit to choose them with care as we head into November and beyond.

Danielle Sullivan, a mom of three, has worked as a writer and editor in the parenting world for more than 10 years. Sullivan also writes about pets and parenting for Disney’s Babble.com. Find Sullivan on her blogs, Just Write Mom and Some Puppy To Love.

Updated 5:01 pm, July 9, 2018
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