Letting Go of Labels
Fear of labels - of judgement, of ostracism - fuels a lot of people's resistance to getting involved in political discussion or activism, even in the face of some serious threats to things they value deeply. No matter how much humans have evolved, we are still social animals - we remain tribal at our core. We want to be accepted among "our own" and this often translates to conforming to the standards of our communities, at least enough so that we don't draw negative attention.
And that's where labels come in.
We're all comfortable holding our own opinions and we're usually pretty free about sharing them... to an extent. But there's some vague line where we start to feel uncomfortable, where we worry that we've "gone too far" and now... well... "What would the neighbors think?" Suddenly, we stop seeing those opinions and feelings through a filter of logic or "rightness," and we instead start seeing them through the filter of how others may perceive us.
If you harbor suspicions that the government might not have your best interest at heart, you wonder if you're "getting paranoid." If you start wanting to openly discuss your concerns, you fear that you'll meet - or worse, be seen as - "some sort of extremist." If you consider taking some sort of action in opposition to laws and policies, you fear that you'll be seen as "radical."
All those labels and so many others spark a visceral reaction and have a chilling effect on getting involved. It makes it easy to shrink at the thought of "getting involved in politics," and to just "leave it to the pros" instead. After all, they're powerful and experienced and vastly educated in the nuances of "politics."
Sound at all familiar? Ever have any internal monologues like that? I know I did.
Every boring debate with a predictable outcome; every grandstanding, finger-pointing speech; every bit of special-interest, attention-whoring, headline-generating, crisis-du-jour makes you tune out. And when we add the specter of social labels to the mix - labels like Republican, Democrat, Liberal, Conservative, environmental-leftist-whacko, right-wing-gun-nut, anarchist Libertarian, and a thousand others - we simply shy away, finding it all too negative and just "not worth it."
But it is worth it. Because the fact is, politics isn't "just politics." It isn't just rah-rahing for "your party" during an election or reflexively condemning anything done by "the other side." It's not about parties it's about laws. While you may not think much about politics or the people involved in them, the end result of politics is laws - laws that effect you, me, and everyone else in this country. These laws have put innocent people in jail. They have bankrupted citizens who have committed no crimes. They have restricted our freedoms and our choices. They have placed our population under the eye of a surveillance state that has made former members of the dreaded East German Stasi envious. They have made it legal, courtesy of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), for American citizens to be indefinitely detained by military authorities without facing their accusers, knowing the charges against them, having legal representation or any habeas corpus protection.
This is what shying away and "leaving it to the pros" has wrought.
It does take courage to get involved; to move past our own subconscious reactions to those labels; to let go of the fear of social judgement or rejection. But, as I have often told my children, countless more people have died from inaction than from embarrassment. It is a courage you do possess and, if you exercise it, you'll soon find that you are not alone. This is not about getting involved in "politics" but in defense of a way of life that is being jeopardized by the very people tasked to preserve it. And those of us who have already committed to the fight need every bit of help we can get.
Never be afraid to say or do what you know to be right.