Up to now, the “From the Front Lines” section of the blog has been a report about the various events I’ve been to and an update on goings on. It will usually still be about that; however, sometimes I’m going to use this as an update on where my head is, my thoughts and musings that don’t really fit into the realm of a rant.
The United States is in a bit of a rough patch. We’re divided on a whole slew of issues, this biggest of them being that we can’t even seem to agree on what some of those issues are in order to have some kind of opening dialogue in an attempt to solve any of our problems. Cries of, “No!” and, “Yes!” and “I’m right, you’re wrong!” ring out across the internet. For those who know me, I’m rather vocal about my beliefs and in calling out bullshit and hypocrisy when I see it. On the other hand, I possess enough critical thinking skills to be able to step back when presented with new information, examine it, judge the validity of it, and then reassess my worldview based on that new information.
I’ve had several people, both in my personal and professional life caution me about speaking up as much as I do on so many hot-button items. I understand where they are coming from, looking out for my best interests. I’m almost certain that I’ve turned off potential readers by spouting off on my beliefs. For a time, I think it was a few weeks sometime in 2015, I considered keeping my discussions to writing, storytelling, and all things nerdy. After a while, I found that I have to speak out about the things I believe in. More to that, I feel that those of us who can engage in rational discourse, and examine and alter our beliefs in the face of new information have a moral obligation to participate in the public dialogue; otherwise, the division in our culture is just going to get bigger and bigger.
As Trump begins his Presidency, I have a feeling I’m going to be speaking out a lot more. I find his choices and policies are worrisome at best, terrifying on average, and I don’t think we’ve seen the bottom end of the horrific places this administration is going to go. I’m going to do my best to keep up with everything, but this crew is already reaching monumental levels of idiocy and dangerous rhetoric. If the last few days are any indication, I’m going to be a busy guy, what with keeping up with my own writing and adding my voice to the loyal opposition.
In speaking out, I realize that I have more than likely cost myself a few books sales. That is what it is. I know that I won’t read books by some writers because I don’t agree with some of their words and/or behaviors. On the other hand, I’ve purchased books from writers that I’ll probably never read because I really like the things they stand up for and how they conduct themselves. Hopefully, I inspire more people to check out my work because of what I stand up for than I push potential readers away. However, if I don’t, that’s the way it goes. I’ve made adult choices, and now, I get to live with the consequences. The awareness that I’m potentially costing myself book sales isn’t going to keep me from making those choices again.
I also want to be able to be able to look at myself in the mirror and know that I have been my true and honest self with the world. In the fall of 2015, I watched my eldest son graduate from Bootcamp to become a United States Marine. About that time, someone close to me told me about some of their experiences in the wake of the Viet Nam conflict, when civilians treated U.S. servicemen in some pretty horrible ways. The person told me that one of the great regrets of their life was that they didn’t speak out against that. I never want to have that regret. The only power I have in this world come from my words, and I don’t ever want to feel like I missed an opportunity to use my words to help make the world a better place, even if just letting someone else know that they aren’t alone.
In the last few months, I’ve been listening to the soundtrack of HAMILTON with an almost religious fervor. It’s inspired me to learn more about the Founding Fathers, the events leading up to the Revolutionary War, and the formation of our Democratic Republic. While the founders didn’t always see eye to eye — our two party system stems from Alexander Hamilton and Tomas Jefferson not being able to stand each other — they all risked their lives in speaking out against the tyranny of the British monarchy. If they had lost, they would have almost certainly, to a man, been executed for treason. In the face of that, who am I to balk at a few book sales?
I also encourage others to speak out as well. In speaking out, don’t stop and listen to what someone with a viewpoint different than yours has to say. They may bring something to the discussion that you hadn’t considered. However, if they bring up data points, always ask for sources. Always be ready to provide yours. Rational discourse only occurs when all parties involved are rational. I’ve cut off communication with more than a few individuals who refuse to consider anything that doesn’t agree with their worldview. In those cases, you’re not having a conversation or discussion, you’re just wasting time and energy. That’s not to say, we have to tolerate every view and consider; things like compassion, kindness, and basic human dignity are not on the negotiating table.
If you are capable of rational discourse, evaluating new information, and changing your thoughts and opinions based on valid information, then I urge you in joining me in speaking out, pointing out hypocrisy, and keeping our public discourse from splitting further and further to the polarized extremes. The First Amendment of the United States Constitution gives us the privilege of the freedom of speech and assembly. The recent Women’s Marches across the globe have proven that we can gather to have our voices heard without devolving into violence and hate. Until recently, the ones who have been using the privilege of free speech most are the people trying to steer our discourse to the extremes of the right and left. Those of us capable of doing more than just speaking our minds and ranting on the internet need to take the conversation back. It’s our moral obligation and civic duty to the American experiment.
Democracy is not a spectator sport.