“Oh, I don’t talk politics, you can’t change anyone’s mind.” I often find myself “preaching to the choir” feeling I can’t possibly make a difference. But that’s not true. I do believe we can and should shine a light. We can make a difference. Whenever I feel that it’s no use, I remember an incident from my earlier years in which I am really glad someone had the nerve to confront me about something I had just said.
It was the early 60’s. I was in college and John Kennedy was running for president. We did have students who were active in politics and they had display tables in the student union building. I was completely naive about politics but I liked the idea of hanging around smart boys. As I was walking past a display table of campaign materials for JFK I made some uninformed sarcastic remark. I believe is was a snarky remark about Jackie Kennedy. I don’t even remember what I said but it was a regurgitation of the, shall we say, low information folks that comprised my family and my neighbors. I lived in a blue collar neighborhood where racism and religious intolerance was rampant. My people were intolerant of different races, different nationalities, Jews, Catholics and about anything else that made for “us and them”. I think my comment was a repeat of the neighborhood ladies’ gossip.
A nicely dressed, very polite young man approached me. He was the kind of young man I was desperate to meet and impress. Oh, yes, I had impressed him all right. Impressed him with my ignorance. In a charming, but authorative manner he explained why I was wrong. The blood rushed to my head. I was mortified. He saw me as a stupid blonde freshman and I had proven the point. Never again!
Not only did I learn to be more informed (I did ultimately become a strong Kennedy supporter) but I also learned that just one person speaking out can make a difference.
I think of this often as I listen to folks I perceive to be ignorant. Perhaps I can present information that might actually have impact. Someone might actually listen. I believe it can happen if we do it with respect.
I also speak out in what I call “preaching to the choir”. I feel it is important to let others know that they are not alone. Perhaps that will give that person the courage to confront a dumb blonde who has potential to learn.