Writing About Politics

posted in: Blogging, Politics 22

Politics, religion, and sex.

Aren’t those the three we were taught never to speak of in polite company?

I was reminded of this recently in an online workshop I took on using Facebook.

“YOU POST TOO MUCH ABOUT POLITICS!”  They hollered.

“You don’t want to alienate the people who will buy your books” was the idea.

It’s true. In fact, I don’t want to alienate anyone, actually, whether they buy my books or not.

The points I heard in the critique of my Profile Page were valuable. I did need to:

  • post more about my writing
  • post fewer shares; offer more of my own (a FB algorithm factoid)
  • be more consistent in my posts on my Author page

But the “eliminate the political content” has reminded me that to ignore politics at this point in time feels immoral.

 

 

The conventional wisdom and certainly the position of many politicians, is that politics is about power.

This is what I was taught as a PhD student in political science not all that long ago.  But, for me, politics is about the moral choices that people in power make, everyday, moral choices that impact our lives.

Thanks to the political decisions made in the 1980s, politics hasn’t been serving most of us very well; 99% of us, to be exact.  And, yes, I’m aware that many of the unique advantages our wealthy have always enjoyed were set in place at the founding of our country. Historian Howard Zinn and Economist Charles Beard have made that abundantly clear. Still, I choose to blame the administration of Ronald Reagan.

Do you remember “trickle down economics?”

“Trickle Down Economics” was the brainchild of Reagan’s Treasury Secretary, David Stockman. It held that the benefits given to business would trickle down to the rest of the population — eventually. Reaganomics, the collection of Reagan era economic maxims (reduced taxes, reduced government regulation, reduced government oversight, reduced government) would be good for us all.

It’s been over thirty years and I’m still waiting to feel the tickle of the trickle.

I’m also remembering.

Do you remember when you could lift your phone receiver and the connection would be strong, solid, and static free? Do you remember what your phone bill cost you back then? Heck, do you remember when TV was free?

Do you remember when you could buy a seat on an airplane and it wouldn’t cost you a week’s salary?  And the seats were actually roomy and comfortable? I remember—I must have been around 8 or so—my grandmother and I were at the United Airlines counter at Newark Airport. All the seats on the flight we wanted were filled, so the United representative made a phone call and got us seats on a TWA flight.  No problem. That was before the airlines were deregulated.

Do you remember when your local Savings and Loan bank was the safest place to put your money?
In 1982, the Garn-St. Germain Depository Institutions Act removed restrictions on the loan-to-value ratio for savings and loans. Further budget cuts reduced staff at the Federal Home Loan Bank Board.  The result: the 1989 Savings and Loan Crisis. Do you remember that?

Do you remember when your mortgage payment or rent was just 25% of your income? Paul Krugman of the New York Times wrote (in 2009, during the worst recession our country has faced since the Great Depression of 1929) that total “Household debt was 60 percent of income when Reagan took office, about the same as it was during the Kennedy administration. By 2007 it was up to 119 percent.”

Do you remember when your doctor made decisions for your health care based on your health and not on your pocketbook?  Do you remember the days before your doctor joined an HMO? Heck, I still remember my doctor making house calls (but that’s another post).

Those decisions made some forty years ago had moral implications. They affected people’s lives. They certainly affected mine. As did the decisions made since: under Bush, Clinton, Bush Jr., and Obama.  As are the decisions coming out of the White House these days.

These political decisions are affecting and will continue to affect people’s lives
for generations to come.

I cannot stay silent.

I am outraged and I am afraid.

The country to whom I once asked “what can I do for you?” has changed.  And I want to do everything in my power to bring it back.

 

 

  • I want to live in a land where each person, each citizen, has the opportunity to reach their full potential.
  • I want to live in a land where everyone is free to love whom they choose. It’s love we’re talking about here.
  • I want to live in a land where we are proud of our public schools, where teachers make a good living, where children learn to love learning.
  • I want to live in a land where healthcare is treated as a right and not a privilege.
  • I want to live in a land where our environment is valued for what it does: keeping us all alive.
  • I want to live in a land where I needn’t fear that a bridge I’m crossing might fall down, where our national parks remind me of the abundant natural beauty that is in this world, where the air I breathe and the water I drink will not make me sick.
  • I want to live in a land where individuals take responsibility for the decisions they make, where those decisions consider the generations to come and not just the bottom line. And where everyone owns a pair of boots so they can give a tug or two on those bootstraps, as needed.

And I don’t want to move to Scandinavia to do it.

I could go on.  I’m sure there are other lines you too could add.

 

 

Often attributed to Maggie Kuhn (founder of the Grey Panthers), though that remains unclear, I chose this particular meme because it uses “Your Truth” rather than “The Truth.”   I think this is an important distinction.

When I post about politics I try to keep it to “my truth,” knowing others have their own version of it.

However, I will stay respectful, knowing there are other opinions. Other “Truths.”

Here are my promises to you my Facebook Friends. When I post about politics:

  • There will be no ranting and raving. No shouting. No venting of my anger. But I will name the injustice I see.  And, since others so often say it better than I, I will often share their posts.
  • I will not engage in ad hominems, gratuitous and otherwise.  They undermine the validity of the argument. I’ll stick to ideas, not people. I’ll not only write from that “I place,” my “I” will stand for Ideas. And, finally,
  • I’ll stay sensitive to the weariness that people feel.  There’s a growing sense of being overwhelmed by these challenges that seem insurmountable. I know this and, I think, that fact  pushes me forward. But I’ll try to do it with sensitivity.

How about you? When are you talking about politics these days? 

 

22 Responses

  1. Merril Smith
    | Reply

    I think it’s difficult to not take a stand now–especially after the latest news and dt’s words. You see my FB feed, so you know what I post. I try to repost only the real news stories from legitimate news sites–well, and Randy Rainbow. 😉 I try not to overwhelm. And my own work sometimes leans to the political. I don’t have an author page. It’s my personal page. There are a few authors and artists I follow, and they have very definite views–Mary Doria Russell and Janis Ian, for example.
    Merril Smith recently posted…Garden ShadowsMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thanks Merril. I hadn’t heard of Mary Doris before. I shall check her out. I love the Bald Piano Guy. The other one I like, Lauren Mayer, had been waylaid with illness. Randy Rainbow is probably the edgiest of the three so I don’t generally share his. Though he does make me laugh. That’s so important these days.

      • Merril Smith
        | Reply

        It’s Mary Doria Russell, not Mary Doris. 🙂 She’s an anthropologist turned novelist–her novels are well-researched. I think she writes beautifully. I was just using her as an example of someone who definitely expresses her opinions online.
        Merril Smith recently posted…Dream a DreamMy Profile

        • Janet Givens
          | Reply

          Typo! And too much hurrying. I shall check her out.

  2. Kelly Boyer Sagert
    | Reply

    I am so horrified by what is going on that I actually feel stunned. I am reading posts from people that shock me. I knew that these people did not share my moderate/centrist political points of view, but the hate, rage and anger are absolutely terrifying. I agree 100% with your list of “I want to live in a land where . . .” I have never posted about politics before, but am starting to post about no person being less than because of race, and a post that shares resources on how to deal with all this hate. I recently discovered an a previously-unknown ancestor fought in an abolitionist unit in 1861, before most people, even on the north, would acknowledge that slavery needed to go. So, I’m trying to draw courage from him. (Of course, he didn’t survive . . .)
    Kelly Boyer Sagert recently posted…What is Content Creation?My Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      How exciting to discover things about our ancestors we never knew. I hope you’ll tell his story. Your work on the Underground Railroad is, I think, what stands out for me. Any chance you’ll make the play available for other community groups?

  3. Laurie Buchanan
    | Reply

    Janet — I love your definition: “politics is about the moral choices that people in power make, every day, moral choices that impact our lives.” And your love your “I want to live in a land” list.

    I think you’ll resonate strongly with this post by Josh Bryan titled, “Charlottesville was my Fault:” https://sarondipityuniverse.wordpress.com/2017/08/13/charlottesville-was-my-fault-2/
    Laurie Buchanan recently posted…Bare NakedMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Thanks so much for the link, Laurie. I loved his “We must begin to speak up because by being passive and letting racist jokes and statements slide, we are literally building the foundation…”
      And “take a moment … to see that silence really is compliance.”

      I also noticed it’s been shared to Facebook thousands of times. It’s resonating.

  4. Pamela
    | Reply

    Thank you for your bravery and honesty in writing this post. I must admit, I feel exactly the same way you do. But I’ve also been very careful and fearful of writing any kind of politics in my blog. I do not write a political blog; I write a blog about living our ordinary lives. And I believe that ordinary people who live ordinary lives where we seek joy, freedom, equality for all, are the kind of people who will save this country.
    That said, I also believe that we ordinary people can’t sit still and listen to the hogwash and hate that is handed out even by our president without responding. But I also believe that in our response, using light and love is the best way to drown out that ugliness and hate.
    Thank you for lighting the way from many of us.
    Pamela recently posted…PUTTERINGMy Profile

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Yes. Our salvation does seem more and more to rest with the “ordinary” people of the world. Yet, hasn’t it always been so?

      I’m so glad you joined us today, Pam. Welcome back from vacation.

  5. Sharon Lippincott
    | Reply

    Ah, Janet, your brave post inspired me to tap out a blog post about the importance of including those three taboo topics in our personal life stories, to some degree, and connecting those observations to historical hooks whenever they work.

    I especially appreciate your “I want to live in a land” list.

    As for what I post, I’ve decided to focus on good news posts (yes, there is still good news if you dig around a bit) and informative posts that give concrete action steps. I’m so burned out on simple outrage links! The choir already knows, the rest won’t read or heed. I also steer clear of hate language, and often confront it in comment threads. “Hey dude, let’s stay civil here…”

    Thank you for the inspiration and your dependable, thought-provoking leadership.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Sharon. I think calling out hate, finger pointing, name calling, et al is very important. And I applaud you doing it where you can. I heard recently of someone who had been afraid to identify and call out racist jokes, particularly in social situations. Now, he is eager for the next one, feeling motivated to call them out now as well. If we each do what we can, we shall prevail. I have to believe that. I’m eager to read that blog post.

  6. Susan Jackson
    | Reply

    I read your book before any of this mess started. i totally agree with you and love this blog–says everything I feel. I am outraged and very afraid. I asked my husband last night if he was ready to move back to Germany–I was surprised when he said no, if the answer was yes I would sell everything and we would be gone. I only talk politics with like minded friends but when we go out for the day we all agreed we will not polute ourselves by talking about it at all. I am sad, so sad.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Susan. I understand your desire to move, and Germany has become a really impressive country. Woody actually investigated moving to Canada, where he has family. We’re too old! And it wasn’t long ago that I realized I’d support my sons if they felt it important to move their family to Canada (particularly if it’s Ontario). At the same time, because we are of that privileged demographic (straight & WASP) I feel it vital that we stay right here and keep our voices loud and clear. Who better? Thanks so much for your good words. I hope you’ll share.

  7. Tim Fearnside
    | Reply

    Hi Janet. How, when, and where to talk about politics has been a question that’s really plagued me in recent times. As you know, I’ve gone there numerous times in my blog, yet often feel as though I’m speaking into a void — or, when an occasional post gains a little traction, that it’s simply with the “choir,” so to speak. I honestly don’t know if a single thing I’ve written has persuaded a single person, other than perhaps my first piece on gay marriage, which managed to connect with at least a few people across political persuasions. I’ve asked myself many times why I bother. I guess it’s my way of at least trying. I’ve become increasingly less interested in Facebook, largely due to its political dynamics, which essentially forces people to choose to either offend or alienate long time friends and family members, or to bite their tongues, neither of which is very satisfying to me. I’ve found a little relief on twitter recently, but its admittedly because I feel more like I’m in a room full of strangers. The fundamental challenge is that, by nature, I would like to bring people a step closer together, but people don’t seem to want to this. Perhaps that’s not where we are right now as a society, and instead it is simply a time to pick a side and let our voices ring loudly and clearly. I don’t know, but I know it is an issue I need resolve in my own mind, and I thank you for encouraging me to confront it.
    Tim Fearnside recently posted…I Used To Think It Was Funny: Before the Right Wing Media Supplanted Moderate-Conservativism, Created an Ideological Monopoly, and Became a De-facto Propaganda Arm for the Extreme Right’s AgendaMy Profile

    • Sharon Lippincott
      | Reply

      Hey, Tim, looks like I beat Janet to a reply. I totally hear what you’re saying about social media. I’m rapidly concluding that we may have the greatest impact locally. Get out and mix. Maybe quality is more important than quantity.

      I teach workshops and lead groups of people who are learning how to write their life stories. They write a story for each meeting and read it to the group, hopefully printing copies to share. So far politics has not come up, but if it does, the groups have so much cohesion now that each is eager to learn more about the other, even if it rattles a few cages. IMO, this sort of thing is the way to get people to really open up and care about each other BEFORE knowing they may be looking across chasms.

      That’s rewarding for me, and will hopefully bear amazing fruit. One of the groups is especially diverse in age, ethnicity and experience. One young woman blew all our minds the first time she came with a raw story of learning about her husband’s suicide and events leading up to it. Her Ethiopian husband whom she had met while working in China and who had left her and their three children. Yikes! Everyone reached out in love.

      I’m sure there are plenty of other ways to get similar results. Salon groups at your library? Good luck!
      Sharon Lippincott recently posted…Politics, Religion and SexMy Profile

      • Tim Fearnside
        | Reply

        Thanks, Sharon. I love that your groups are connecting in meaningful ways and developing the kind of cohesion that can withstand political and cultural differences. I love to believe that most people are decent and capable of empathy toward others — even if this belief has been tested and strained in recent times. But this IS when we see the good in other people — when we are connected to them in some way and know and relate to them as people rather than something less.

        I frequently think about the news story from a month or two back about the human chain on a beach in, I believe Florida, where people joined together to save others from a riptide. A beautiful story, as well as a metaphor. At that moment, the people constituted a collective “we,” as opposed to an “us” an a “them.” Achieving that sort of collective community is incredibly difficult on social media, particularly when politics are involved. It doesn’t help that division and objectification of the “other” seem both the goal and strategy of so many seeking greater power. Thanks very much for your reply 🙂
        Tim Fearnside recently posted…I Used To Think It Was Funny: Before the Right Wing Media Supplanted Moderate-Conservativism, Created an Ideological Monopoly, and Became a De-facto Propaganda Arm for the Extreme Right’s AgendaMy Profile

      • Janet Givens
        | Reply

        Hey Sharon. Thanks so much for popping in here. It feels like the beginnings of a real community here, where we each interact with each other.

    • Janet Givens
      | Reply

      Hi Tim. I believe owning our Truth is important in a civil society. That said, I also believe that conflict for the sake of conflict is rather a waste of good energy. So, I tend to hold back in those situations where it may become an “I’m right; you’re wrong” exchange.

      I love your blog; I only wish you wrote it more often. You speak your Truth with a clear voice. And yes, I imagine you are speaking to the choir now, in the beginning. That’s OK, I believe. The choir likes good writing too. 🙂

  8. Well said, Janet. Applause to your courage, your authenticity, and your respectful civility! I think we’re walking a parallel journey these days, toward speaking our truth.

    Where and when do I talk about politics? I’ve started to, and will probably continue to talk politics on my blog because, well, it’s entirely mine and people don’t have to read it unless they want to. I didn’t talk politics yesterday at a family reunion because it was more important to just be together sharing our family stories than divide into political parties.

    How? Hopefully thoughtfully and respectfully.

    Your question , “Aren’t those the three we were taught never to speak of in polite company?” has made me think about what is meant by “polite company.” I think our family reunion was a place we all decided to be “polite company.” And I think there is a time and place for being congenial. At the dinner table, for example.

    But the time and place for “polite company” is not every time and everywhere. There are times and places where speaking up for justice is the just and right thing to do.

    I like you. I’m glad we found each other, and I believe it remains to be seen where our kindred-spirit connection is headed. People like you encourage me and give me hope.
    Tracy Lee Karner Rittmueller recently posted…Trashing My Brand: in rejection of the insane trend toward the monetization of everythingMy Profile

  9. Janet Givens
    | Reply

    Hello Tracy and welcome. I am very glad you decided to drop in. I particularly enjoyed your analysis of “polite company.” It got me thinking in a way I’d not done before, which is always welcome. I hope you’ll be back. I post weekly on Wednesday mornings at about 3 am (I have a UK following). I’ve certainly enjoyed discovering your blog.
    Janet Givens recently posted…Writing About PoliticsMy Profile

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