I grew up in a household where I was taught that it was not appropriate to talk about religious or political beliefs. When one of these subjects arose, the result was typically a heated debate where someone ended up feeling personally assaulted and relationships became guarded. So, we learned to keep our opinions to ourselves.
As an adult, I came to the realization that our society is filled with different beliefs and opinions, many of which are never voiced for fear of social persecution. Many people choose to keep their opinions to themselves for fear of hurting feelings or engaging in an unpleasant conversation. Those who choose to speak are sometimes deemed “outspoken” or “rude” and are rarely debated. Why? Perhaps our society of “free speech” has inadvertently silenced productive, healthy conversations. How does one have a conversation about differing views without shouting, name calling and seeming condescending or rude?
It’s time we learned to discuss the sensitive and challenging topics of the day in a thoughtful, caring way. It may not be as easy as staying silent; but it is healthier and far more productive.
Think of the many voices and opinions that have been silenced by fear, anxiety or lack of confidence. Think of the missed opportunities because someone didn’t feel comfortable expressing their own beliefs. What does that mean for our society? What does that teach our children?
While we may at times have differing views and perspectives on what is just, one thing that I have come to appreciate is that life is too short to harbor ill will, find fault or sit in judgment of others; in fact, it’s perfectly fine to “agree to disagree.” What strengthens our community is appreciating and celebrating different viewpoints in a respectful way. Welcoming diverse opinions is the foundation on which our country was born…but it is up to us, as a community, to preserve the dignity and integrity of this foundation for the sake of our future generations.
Let us have honest and respectful conversations about what we believe. Let us have the strength and patience to listen to our neighbors, friends and colleagues and respect their point of view. Our children are watching and learning just as we did. We need to model behavior that values differences, that seeks to understand the feelings of others, that accepts the notion that we all have something to contribute and that it will ultimately add value to our society.
Perhaps in doing so, these conversations will result in a more positive future for us all.
As a symbol of the belief that we, as a community, need to have conversations about religion, politics and all topics in a more meaningful, respectful way, I invite you to join me in taking the following pledge that was shared with me by a group of Marin residents committed to ensuring that our community continues to serve as a model for our children and country.
“I pledge to discuss challenging community issues with thoughtfulness, to treat people whose opinions differ from mine with respect, and to focus on ideas, policies and solutions. I will encourage others to do the same. I will speak up and publicly object when I hear name-calling, stereotypes, disparaging comments and slurs. I will do this because our community’s health and social well-being is important to me and I know that we cannot effectively deal with challenging problems without these commitments.”
Consider pledging your commitment to this effort at https://elevatethediscussion.org to ensure that our children, neighbors, friends and country know that Marin County will always be a community in which we are proud to talk about our differences in meaningful, caring ways.