When someone says or posts something that I think is very ill-informed, or especially bad in a variety of ways, I think something along the lines of: “I should say something. I know what I’m going to say…but…I mean, what’s the point? If they’re the kind of person to say/do that, they’re not likely to be persuaded by me anyway. And in any case it would just be a scene to address the issue, not to mention uncomfortable.”
It is a constant goal of mine to make that voice shut up.
I think there are times and places for silence and lack-of-response, certainly. Sometimes living to fight another day is the best option. And (mostly) no one is obligated to address every bad thing that they come across—you’d surely develop some kind of mental illness if you forced yourself to address every toxic, or simply misinformed, thing.
But if you don’t get into the habit of addressing bad things, you will remain pre-disposed to saying nothing—I know I would be. And if enough people say nothing, then the only voices left will be the ones saying the terrible things—they usually don’t mind saying them.
(Note: sometimes someone says something off the cuff or impulsively that really is bad, but not really reflective of their character. I think that happens, and I note it to say that I understand that not all bad things are said by bad people.)
In our current political climate, I think we have a severe lack of good people speaking up in productive ways (if good people speak, but they only respond to vitriol with more vitriol, they’re just adding flames to the fire). I know many people who remain silent even when they want to speak, and I understand why. Speaking up is highly uncomfortable, especially at first.
But more people need to speak up in good and productive ways. Hopefully some who read this will push past the discomfort to start doing so. If it helps, I had to push past discomfort when I first started to deliberately speak up. I still have to, although less so now that I’ve gotten into the habit and sharpened my rhetorical skills.
This post is part of my project to write one essay every day of February 2018. The essay topics will vary, but they’ll all be something I’m interested in. All essays can be found here.