Finding My Voice

Because it matters, and so does yours.

“I can’t take any more of these political posts.”

“Can’t anyone say anything nice?”

“I’m peacing out, Facebook. I need a break.”

These are some of the posts I have seen on social media over the last week. They might not seem to communicate any points of significance at first glance, but they do. They show no matter how “nice” we may sound, there is a pervasive unwillingness to engage in meaningful conversations or debates with the other side (or even with the side we agree with). For some people, it’s easier to check out or watch from afar.

Then there are the comments I have heard during conversations with family, friends, and co-workers.

“I wanted to say something, but…”

“It doesn’t matter what I say. They aren’t going to change their minds.”

“I just can’t deal with it. I don’t want to argue.”

I get it. These conversations aren’t easy. They are messy. They are uncomfortable. At times they are infuriating. But we can’t afford to ignore what is happening in our country right now. These conversations need to happen.

I am guilty of refusing to engage. I have shared my thoughts on a few different issues, but overall I have refrained from sharing my political views on social media or in person for fear of alienating family members, friends, colleagues, or acquaintances. I defaulted to the safer option of “liking” the posts on Facebook that I agreed with and staying silent when somebody I was talking to made a statement I disagreed with. What was that silence accomplishing? At first, I was inclined to say “nothing.” But that’s not true.

My silence did accomplish something. It communicated my privilege. It communicated my complicity in sexism, racism, classism, and so many other issues that I am opposed to. It communicated that I didn’t have enough confidence in my beliefs to share them.

Why? That is what I asked myself at 1:00 in the morning on November 9 as I sat in shock watching the election results come in. That is what I am still asking myself now. Why didn’t I speak up before? Why did I fail to express my beliefs? Why didn’t I do something?

Because I hadn’t found my voice. That is not an excuse. That is nobody’s fault but my own. I am disappointed that it took this election to force me to find it, but I am moving forward in the footsteps of the women and men who found their voices before me and stated their views loud and clear.

I am working to take action and show my willingness to engage without compromising what I believe in — having uncomfortable but open conversations with family members, challenging offensive or dismissive Facebook posts, marching, calling state senators to vocalize support for and opposition to important issues, donating to organizations that need support, volunteering with organizations that need willing and able people to get involved. I am hoping that others will be encouraged to do the same — to speak up and get involved when we so desperately need more voices in these conversations and more people to show up.

This is not politics as usual. What we are seeing unfold politically and socially is not normal. If you have found yourself wanting to speak up but feeling like you shouldn’t, start using your voice. If ever there was a time to use it, that time is now. I’m no expert; I’ve only recently begun to be more vocal, and I respect and appreciate those who have been vocal and active all along. Now I’m joining the ranks.

I refuse to be silent. I refuse to be complicit. I refuse to back down from what I believe in. My voice matters, and so does yours.