Friday, July 29, 2016

Coffee and Conversation: 3 Reasons it is Okay to Change Your Mind on Politics

3 Reasons Why it is Okay to Change Your Mind on Politics

We don't like to do it, to change our mind on a political issue - and certainly not more than one issue - and absolutely we do not cross the aisle. In some sense, wouldn't that be an admission of defeat? Wouldn't that mean that all of the hours spent defending this issue or that issue were in vain? We don't like being wrong. John Kerry got skewered in 2004 for being a "flip-flopper." They made a clever political ad of him windsurfing to showcase that he could change his mind on a whim. No wonder we hate changing our minds. The entire concept is scrutinized by our media, but I submit to you that, while this post focuses on three reasons that are acceptable, the truth is that you can change your mind whenever you want for whatever reason you want. But, in the interest of concision, here goes:

  1. You've Grown Up. I am not afraid to use myself as an example here. I became very politically opinionated in 2001 after New York City was attacked on 9/11. I was too young to vote in 2004, but that did not stop me from blabbering to whomever I could about my love for George W. Bush. While I am still very quick to defend many of his decisions that I feel are unfairly criticized, I realize that I looked at the world through a very narrow lens. Being a student under the care of my parents hardly exposed me to much of anything. As I have grown up, I've realized just how rarely black-and-white an issue is. I've realized that most issues have been hotly debated for decades because these issues involve nuance and have valid points on both sides. It is not only okay to view issues differently than I did when I was 15 years old, it is expected that my views would change. If I worried about saying something as a 29 year-old that contradicts something I wrote in LiveJournal in 2005, I'd be in a constant paranoid state. I was opinionated. I had my reasons. Many of my views have evolved, and that is absolutely fine.
  2. You Started a Family. If you followed a more traditional path of graduating, getting a job that earns a paycheck, getting married and having children, then I imagine the issues that you once thought were important have been replaced with different concerns. Starting a family is humbling enough to send you to your knees sometimes. To go from being responsible for yourself to making decisions and casting a vote for someone who will look out for the best interest of your family (however you should define it) is challenging. Maybe paying off your loans has become of paramount importance. Maybe you find yourself empathizing with those mothers and fathers who cannot afford childcare. Humans can find it hard to vote for issues that don't impact them personally, but having a child has shown me that the world isn't about little ol' me and setting up a situation that benefits my own comfort and convenience. That is a hard one because we know people "vote their pocketbooks" most of the time, and that decision hinges on just how fat your pocketbook is to begin with. Of course, I still care about issues like low taxes and limited government, but having a child instinctively elevates other issues like safety, violence, education and access to resources. It opens up doors you previously didn't need to open, and sometimes that means you walk away from notions you once held as a selfish single twenty-something. That is also absolutely fine.
  3. Your Conscience Pulls you Away. Most election years, I'd sit in front of Fox News and listen to the pundits discuss and debate the issues. It was comfortable because many of the views reinforced my preexisting beliefs. I'd grow stronger in my convictions just listening to others articulate well the points I also wanted to make. And I'd hear myself make them later if the discussion ever came up among friends. I loved nothing more than watching a good, honest debate between the two candidates. They'd discuss all the classic issues and whichever issues were currently plaguing our nation. This election cycle is different because the Republican Party has nominated Donald Trump. Republicans seem to belong to three different camps when it comes to Donald. One group cannot believe what has happened and abandoned the Republicans this election cycle. The second group may or may not like Donald Trump as a candidate, but they cannot and will not abandon the conservative ideology (and especially not in favor of Hillary). The third group actually is thrilled with his candidacy. I belong to the first group because my conscience has been in lockstep with my brain ever since Donald's name was floated out as a possibility - this cannot be happening. I cannot vote for a man who says what he has said about women and to women. I cannot vote for a man who says what he says about entire racial groups, entire countries and entire religions. I cannot vote for a man who keeps his rhetoric on the surface and resorts always to platitudes when pushed for substance. It doesn't mean I have abandoned my values or my views of the government. It means that my name in any way attached with his would cause me to lose sleep at night. It would leave me speechless if I ever had to explain it to my daughter. 
I am not out to change anyone's mind. I just think it is important to embrace the idea of evolving politically. It is noble to admit when a view on one issue or another has become stale or obsolete. It is perfectly acceptable to admit that you think about the world in a different way than you once did. Sitting in our respective camps too long can create quite the blind spot. The ability to step outside of yourself and consider things from alternate perspectives and then reconsider your views is a healthy exercise. It centers on the ability to intellectualize, empathize and scrutinize issues in new ways. We don't take these things with us when we leave this Earth, but the impact of our political decisions has a ripple effect for generations. Your vote is important. Your voice is important. I will never know for whom you cast your vote in November, and I don't need to know. I just urge all of you to consider whether we are voting based on actual convictions or out of age-old political affiliation to a party. Changing our minds is not the enemy, but an outright refusal to acknowledge the changing world around us may yield fair more dangerous outcomes. 

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