The Courage of My Convictions

I have a big mouth. I have a loud mouth. This tends to get me into trouble on occasion.

For example, in my neighborhood, people tend to let their small children and dogs run free with little to no supervision. I typically drive 20-25 mph down the main street to my house because I am terrified of the ever-present threat of a child running out from behind a parked car and into my front bumper. The other evening, as I was driving my best friend home, six cars were stopped in the middle of the road because a tiny puppy had planted himself firmly in the street. I pulled over and my girlfriend jumped out to grab the little nugget, and three small children came strolling out of the closest house. She asked them if it was their puppy; they stared at her blankly. Then an adult male came out and she repeated the question. He said that yes, it was theirs. He did not run to the sidewalk to swoop the little beast out of her arms, but remained, utterly unconcerned, on the porch, as she walked up and handed it to him. As she got back in the car, I yelled, “Keep your puppy in the house, for fuck’s sake!” I was shaking with rage, thankful, for the puppy’s sake, that the drivers that day were mindful enough to notice the little white puff of fur in the road and stop, instead of the alternative. I have also been known to yell at parents, as they idly watch their kids run out into traffic with no apparent concern, to “watch their kids, for fuck’s sake!” (I think “for fuck’s sake” is an incredibly useful phrase, clearly.) Jon has pleaded with me to not scream things at strangers from open car windows, but sometimes I just can’t hold back. It is infuriating.

I also have a hard time keeping my opinions to myself when I feel strongly about a situation. Abortion rights, feminism, taking care of poor people, basic human empathy; these are a small sampling of subjects I take very seriously, and remaining mum when they are broached or relevant is close to impossible for me. I like to think my persuasive and charming rhetorical skills will change the hearts and minds of those who disagree with me, and sometimes I can even refrain from using “for fuck’s sake” for whole discussions, if I try really hard. And yet, there are still times where I hide or back down on these things, these basic and fundamental issues that are incredibly important to me, and I am trying to figure out why.

For example, I wear this necklace most days –

silver wire hanger charm neckalce
Available from Etsy seller IAmTheRevolution

It is a small statement I make each day in support of abortion rights and my refusal to force people to go back to using dangerous means to end pregnancies. I wear it with another necklace, mostly because even I, noted loudmouth, realize that abortion is a highly contentious issue and it isn’t particularly professional to strut around the office with my bleeding liberal heart on my sleeve. When people ask me about it, I do a quick assessment in my head of whether or not to tell them the truth. Most of the time, I do. Usually it is a simple “it supports pro-choice rights and part of the proceeds go to fund Planned Parenthood.” Sometimes, I can tell by the look in their eye or the phrasing of the question that they know exactly what it means and are just looking for confirmation from me, which I readily give them, even if it means gearing up for an argument. And sometimes, I am a total wuss about the whole thing and allow people, like my mother-in-law, to believe that it represents how much I love clothes. What. The fuck. Is wrong. With me.

I have mentioned in other articles how vehemently anti-choice and uber-conservative my in-laws are. I love them dearly, and they are absolutely wonderful to me; they are as loving and supportive as I could possibly hope for. Except when it comes to religion and politics. These are topics we avoid like the plague because there is no way we are changing each other’s minds and the ensuing arguments only lead to hurt feelings and intense, burning frustration. The first time I wore the necklace over there, she commented on how adorable it was. I knew what she thought it represented, and I let her. When I know there are going to be people at their house who might be more attuned to it’s more political meaning, I don’t wear it, just to avoid any potential backlash. Every single time I remove it for this purpose, it makes me a little sick to my stomach. It makes me feel like I’m hiding my beliefs, or that I don’t have the courage that my convictions require.

I can try to convince myself that I am simply trying to avoid an argument; that there is no good to come from that discussion being broached. I am pretty good at gauging my audience, and that is one that it is futile to try to engage. They are never going to think abortion is okay, no matter what rational and reasonable information they are provided with. Why is that okay? Why is it okay for them to believe it is acceptable to place more value on the potential of a fetus than the decisions of a living, breathing, uterus having person? Why am I hiding my perfectly reasonable position in the face of that? They are not afraid to share their position, so why do I shy away from proudly owning and explaining mine? Is it to be polite? I clearly have no problem shouting parenting and pet ownership advice to perfect strangers on the street, so politeness might not be one of the top descriptors of my many, many, many wonderful qualities (though humility certainly is, obviously). So why? I haven’t figured it out yet, but I am struggling to do so. I am struggling to stop allowing other people’s willingness to openly declare that “Obama is an asshole” without asking them why they feel that way, specifically. I am trying to stop refraining from engaging to avoid what could turn into an ugly argument. I am trying to feel confident enough in my ability to calmly state my case, to support my position, without letting others derail the discussion. I am trying.

I know many of us have families or friends who disagree with us on many issues. Are their certain topics you avoid? Why? Do you ever feel guilty about it? Or am I alone in being a big baby about this stuff sometimes?

9 replies on “The Courage of My Convictions”

My family (and the Fella’s) tends, mostly, toward the conservative. And the shouty and confrontational. I am none of the above.

I tend to redirect as much as possible, whether it’s family or work or social, if a conversation looks like it’s going to explode and feelings will be hurt and voices will get shouty. My default diversion is puppies, specifically the cuteness thereof. It usually works.

Oh, how I can relate to this. I’m the type of person who’s not afraid to let my opinions be known. Most recently, this led to a person I know deleting her thread on the whole Chik-Fil-A fiasco, being called a b*tch, and being defriended. (I was being civil, but she freaked out about “being called out on FB” and “didn’t want her friends to have to defend her.”) I didn’t really mind the defriending and it felt pretty good to say what I had to say. So I don’t necessarily think to avoid expressing my opinions because I’m concerned with backlash (although sometimes it’s just not worth it/ I’m not in the mood).

Anyhow, it is different when you are faced with a confrontation with someone you’re close to, yet aren’t friends with. E.g., I’ve learned to avoid much political discussion with my future-FIL. He’s a fairly conservative “libertarian,” who has often posted things I strongly disagree with. We had a few (what I thought were) friendly debates, but things got out of hand during a discussion of public education. I don’t remember much of the context, but he ended up calling me a fascist. I think he ended up regretting it because he sent me a conciliatory email afterwards. Since then, we don’t get into political discussions anymore. Honestly, he is a very nice person and I don’t think he truly believes me to be fascist, but I think he watches too much Fox News (and the like). So maybe he just got used to people arguing like that. You definitely have to pick your battles.

When I’ve had one discussion with family or friends and it isn’t a discussion but a diatribe, I don’t feel compelled to repeat it.  I’ve had friends and family who held beliefs that (to my way of thinking) is just plain stupid because they refuse to talk about it.  And it’s OK by me not to talk to them again about that subject.  Why “beat a dead horse?” I only have discussions with people who have the ability to discuss minds.  Hopefully that describes me too!  That whole thing changes when others are affected (kids who need to know that I don’t feel the attitude is appropriate or when adults are belittled, abused, taken advantage, or that all inclusive ‘whatever.’

How I wish I had the courage to shout at those people through windows!  If all else fails, it would be a stress reliever.  They probably wouldn’t pay an heed anyway.  If they displayed any concern, I wouldn’t be yelling.

My in-laws are very conservative and private people who don’t like to talk about anything of consequence. If I bring up anything of any meaning or value, they basically look for the nearest exit. Our conversations are basically limited to weather and quilting (which I know zero about). Though we did once get into an argument about immigrants’ rights over a game of cards which didn’t end well and I’ve been fairly convinced ever since that they hate me and my liberal ways. I mostly just keep my mouth shut 100% of the time while I’m there now. It’s better for us all if we aren’t fighting.

Sometimes for your own peace of mind the only thing you can do is avoid certain arguments. Most of the time the other people aren’t going to change their minds, so there’s really no point in straining the relationship, especially for family you have to see all the time. I don’t post a whole lot of political stuff on facebook because it stresses me out to see what ignorant asshats some of the people I grew up with are. And I damn sure don’t post/comment on religious stuff, because it’s not worth losing a ton of friends if they found out I was an atheist. There are some things I won’t let go unchallenged, but for the sake of my blood pressure I just roll my eyes and scroll past a lot of things (or, sometimes, copy/paste into a group of liberal friends so we can mock the idiocy that pops up).

I only do small talk with one of my grandfathers. He sees pretty much everything as a personal attack and I simply do not want to hear what ‘They’ did this time. So we talk about weather and sports and bicycling because I know I can’t tell him in a loud voice that thinking in ‘us-them’ is one of the biggest problems a society can have.

To me, there’s a full spectrum in how I can have a voice/help/matter – one end is ‘do nothing,’ one end is WhiteKnight/Hero mode, but there are so many options in-between. Sometimes helping a cause you believe in isn’t going to happen via extreme measures, and that’s okay. Not wearing the necklace doesn’t mean that you’re not true to yourself or not helping the cause; it’s not the same as doing nothing. It seems that you value what these relatives think of you and want them to like you, which means there are more stakes than there are with random irresponsible idiots. That’s hard. I don’t have any amazing advice or anything, but maybe if you find small common-ground topics in the political spectrum, it’ll be easier to feel like your voice is being heard. Or at least discuss how wretched your neighbors are :)

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