The saying goes that opinions are like elbows – everyone has them. Or armpits – they all have one and they all stink. Or like orgasms – mine is more important and I don’t care about yours…. You get the drift.
Lately I have been sharing my opinions about a lot of things in a lot of ways. The political goings on in our country lately have gotten me all riled up. I am not even sharing why I think one candidate is better or worse than another. I am sharing about broader political issues – abortion, rape (WHY is rape even a political issue????), birth control access, women’s wages, civil rights, gay rights, religion in the workplace/political arena/government, health care, and more.
I have had a lot of push and pull from friends and family lately too. Which, let’s face it, is to be expected if you are so openly sharing your opinion with the whole world via facebook or blogging. I don’t mind open, honest, level headed discussions. I actually enjoy them. They help me firm up my opinions and help me see the issue from the point of view of someone who has a different opinion.
The funny thing is, many of my friends and family seem upset with me or even offended by my opinion. Or seem to think I may not realize why my opinion is “wrong” and try to explain to me why I should or should not be feeling this particular way.
I honestly sat down to write a post on abortion and being pro choice, and what that means to me, and why I feel the way I do. I decided, however, that my views are much larger than that, and perhaps I need to do some ‘splainin.
First, a little back ground. I am pretty liberal. I am not the most liberal person I know. But I am on that side of the liberal spectrum – out there with the extreme liberals. I was not raised to be liberal. My father and his family are real extreme conservatives. My mom was what I think I would call an open minded moderate. Our family was very religious in a very conservative religion. My home town is white, middle class, republican/conservative. When I was younger there was no racial diversity at all, no openly homosexual people, no “being different” and being accepted. I think it has changed a little.
In 1980 I was 5. There was a lot of goings on in our house with the Reagan/Carter race in full swing. My father was always involved in politics and I can imagine that is why I was interested in this particular race – I must have heard a lot about it at home. I asked my father who he was going to vote for and he said we don’t really talk about that or ask people that. I told him I thought he should vote for Jimmy Carter. I am sure the poor man thought he was in for a doozy of a ride with me.
I haven’t changed. I am not a product of my upbringing. I have always had my own opinions and I have always known how I felt about things. I can remember when I was maybe 9 being upset because in our church they would talk about how the girls should go to college in case their husbands died and they needed to work. It upset me because my mom worked. She worked, she enjoyed it, she did wonderful things in her work with special ed kids. She made a difference in people’s lives in her work. She was a good mom who always took care of us, so why was it “wrong” for her to work? I knew how I felt about that from a young age.
What I am building up to here is that I find that some people think that I have the opinions I have because I follow other people like me. Some people seem to feel I have not examined my positions on some issues, or that I have not fully realized that there are other options for me to examine, or that I simply don’t think it through.
This could not be further from the truth.
I lead a fairly introspective life. I have examined my feelings about just about everything on this earth.
For example: I feel like some people think I am very women’s rights oriented because it is the “trendy” thing to do, or the “extreme” thing to do. Or the expected thing, or the non expected… etc. This is not the case. I have studied women’s issues for quite some time – including quite a few classes in college – not to date myself – but over 15 years ago. I have continued to study on my own since then. I find these “issues” hit home with me. They are all things I care about. They are all things I love to learn about. There are a lot of things that inspire passion in me. Women’s issues are some of them.
I recently had a discussion in which a friend told me that women’s rights doesn’t resonate with her because she feels like she has all the rights she could want or need, so she didn’t need to worry about it. Paraphrasing. To me this is sad. I am a white middle class identifying as straight woman with a husband and a son. I have quite a lot of privilege in this country. The woman I am talking about is similar – in fact she is also christian, has a college degree, is in fairly good health, and has more than one child. She may be just a peg higher than me on the privilege ladder. The thing is, that working on women’s issues isn’t really about women who look like me. I mean – in the long run it is, it affects all women – but really working on women’s issues benefits the women who have less than I do. Less privilege, less ability to move about in society, less choice in their lives. Working on women’s issues is more important to the women who are poor, who are battered, who are unable to get an education, who are living on the streets, who are being sold into sex slavery. Women’s issues aren’t just about whether or not I can get the same wage as a man doing the same job should I choose to go back to work (although it is about that too – and by the way, I can’t – women STILL make 70 cents on the dollar in most states compared to men). They aren’t JUST about that. Fighting for the rights of all women – in all the world – is about so much more. It is about the right to vote, the right to marry whom we choose or not marry at all, it is about the right to access necessary health care, it is about the right to be able to walk alone without a husband or son with us, it is about the right to the same education as a man, about the right to being able to work in the field of our choice AND being paid the same, about the right to have children or not have children as we choose, about the right to our body being our own and not the property of our male relatives. It is about stopping honor killings and sex slavery human trafficking and child brides and more. Just 93 years ago women in the US weren’t allowed to vote. 163 years ago the first woman graduated with a medical degree. In 1987 the first co-ed class was enrolled in Columbia College. In 1993 the last US state made marital rape illegal. That means before that, a husband could not be tried for raping his wife, even though that is a commonly used abuse tactic. These are the reasons I am involved in women’s rights – and many more.
Here is another example: some of my friends/family think I don’t go to church because it’s inconvenient, it cuts into my fun, it doesn’t fit into my schedule, I don’t like following the rules, etc. I don’t go to church because I don’t believe in organized religion. I think it is a way to control the masses. The only organized religion I have found to actually feel somewhat comfortable or “right” to me is Buddhism And if you know anything about Buddhism, the basic tenants of Buddhism are to become your very best self and to create love and light in the world. It is based in introspection, meditation, finding the calm within yourself, ending suffering, and finding peace. It is far different to me than any other religion I have learned about – in which the believers follow what an omnipotent being tells them to do without looking into their hearts to find whether that matches up with their own truth. Or perhaps by looking into their own hearts to find where they don’t match up with the omnipotent being in order to find out where their OWN faults lie instead. I simply don’t believe in these things. I am spiritual. I believe in increasing my own happiness, peace and wisdom in many ways. I believe in helping others, being kind, doing the right thing. I just don’t think “the right thing” is written in any books – it’s inside of me. I believe in following my heart and mind and finding the best path for me and my family. I believe in the energy of the universe and that we are all a part of that, connected to each other.
What I do and don’t believe isn’t just random. It isn’t just my “default” mode. It isn’t the easy or simple or convenient thing. What I do and don’t believe has been studied, looked at, turned upside down, meditated on, tested out, and pored through.
Some people who have known me a long time think that I am just randomly going through life. That because I had a rough young adult hood I just gave up trying and didn’t form my own beliefs. They think that because I dropped out of college I don’t care about learning. They think that because I went through a phase of partying and basically not living an adult life that I must not have adult thoughts and beliefs. Actually, I feel like I went through those parts of my life BECAUSE of all the introspection and finding myself I needed to do. I was so different from the people I knew and grew up with and loved. I felt like I was “wrong” or “needed to change” or “constantly fighting” and I think that helped to cause a lot of my problems. I wondered what was so wrong with me that I couldn’t simply accept it all and be like everyone else I knew. I felt tortured and “defective”. I wish I had known there were a thousand people just like me out there, just waiting to find each other. I think it would have helped.
So, friends and family – who I love and who love me – when I share my opinion with you, please know that you aren’t expected to agree. You aren’t expected to have the same belief or the same ideas as me. I respect other people’s views and own truths. But please know, I am not sharing something that has come lightly to me. Please know I am not sharing something that is arbitrary, simple, or thrown together. I have come to these conclusions from a lot of work and “soul searching” and I truly feel like this idea/belief is what’s best for me in my life – and I also probably feel like it’s best for society at large.
I try really hard not to sweep aside other people’s opinions too. I really try hard to listen to how they feel and why. It is much more difficult for me to do when the reasoning or belief is based on “because that’s what God said” or “because that’s what my church says”, but I know that most of my family and friends have also searched their soul and found their truths too.
I guess in conclusion what I really want people to know is that assuming that someone who believes differently than you hasn’t gone through a process (sometimes a long and involved one) to get to that belief can be foolish. Leading an introspective/examined life does not guarantee we will all come to the same conclusions, it does not mean that we will all agree. Maybe there is more than one truth in this world. Just maybe more than one belief system can be “right”.