If I ever decided to write an autobiography or some sort of memoir I always imagined I would title it, “Whatever You Do, Don’t Ask about Religion or Politics”. It’s an idea that frightens me and motivates me. It’s the seed of apprehension that somehow managed to grow into The Magical Buffet.
Where does this common piece of social wisdom come from? I don’t recall any time in my life when my parents, friends, educators, or anyone else, actually told me this cultural truism. Yet, I knew it wasn’t supposed to be done. Somehow you, me, everyone, be they friend or co-worker, know that it just isn’t done. More so now, in this era of risk management political correctness, will you intrinsically be trained by society to absolutely, under no circumstances, ask anyone about their religion or their politics. It’s a good way to lose friends and gain enemies. I can’t help but feel that this generates a climate of fear in our society. How are we supposed to become a global community and not engage in conversation about the things that could potentially divide us the most? The simple answer is, we won’t.
Here’s another societal truism, people fear what they don’t understand, and fear becomes hate, and the next thing you know I’ll start quoting “Star Wars”. It’s true of course, people fear what they don’t understand. How else is the human animal meant to survive? I don’t understand those crackling lights ripping the sky apart, I’m going to hide in my cave. Right on my primitive brother from another mother, you get your prehistoric butt into that cave and preserve the human species! Emotions like fear and hate, come as readily to us as love. Only humans can experience love or hate in precisely equal measure. It’s what we do with those most potent emotions that define an individual, their community, and their society. It’s taken the better part of my adult life to not automatically default to hate when presented with an intolerable situation. At sixteen I hated Tipper Gore and her cadre of censorship cronies. That’s right, I said it, I hated Tipper Gore. (It’s as if I hear millions of liberals cry out, and then suddenly be silenced. See, more “Star Wars”!) I even wrote a terrible, horrible, utterly embarrassing poem forever preserving my righteous hate for her that was published in my high school newspaper (Go Bombers!). How dumb was I then? So painfully naive. I was not worthy to have anyone read my writing, I was not entitled to think I could educate others. It was with time and experience that I learned hate just isn’t an option. Hate doesn’t solve problems, hate creates problems. (And if you ever watch the television show “Burn Notice” you know that guns make you stupid, but duct tape makes you smart.)
Now that I’ve detailed two of our societies’ greatest truths: that we are not to discuss religion or politics despite their importance in many people’s lives, and that we fear what we don’t understand and that fear becomes hate, I’m here to offer a pretty obvious solution.
Fuck ’em. People who somehow send you the signal that you are never to discuss religion and politics can bite me.
That’s right folks, for the first time ever, I’ve dropped the f bomb in writing. (Those who know me personally are probably surprised it took this long!) I don’t mean to offend you, but to instead in the most graphic way possible, express my utter distaste for some of the worst ideas ever. Ever.
We know that people fear what they don’t understand and that fear can easily become hatred. For better or worse, this is coded in our DNA. No matter how loving or how enlightened an individual is, the potential for fear of the unknown other is always an option. So how about this idea, we work to make it so there is less to fear? If fear can potentially become hate, and hate is bad, why not attempt to lessen the amount of fear in the world?
But Rebecca, how on earth are we going to do that? As a start, I highly recommend asking people about their religious and political beliefs. But it makes things awkward, and potentially uncomfortable. You know what I say to that? Get over it. In my experience, if you’re polite, if you’re respectful, and if you’re honest about your lack of understanding, people will genuinely surprise you. You will find that yes, there are things you disagree on, but often you’ll also find that there are things you can agree on. (And before you say that is a cliché’, I’d like to state, for the record, that I have personally found common ground with Conservatives, Republicans, Evangelical Christians, and just about any other group you think I wouldn’t.) You learn about other perspectives, you learn about other points of view. You may not like them, you may not share the same beliefs as them, but you’ll also gain understanding about them. Those things that cause fear, those things that become hate, they become merely a differing view, from another person. Just another person.
Take notice all of you who are profiting from fear, anger, and hate. We’re not buying what you are selling anymore. I’m tired of being force fed outrage on a daily basis, and not for the “good fight”, not for “our children’s future”, but to turn a quarterly profit. We are ready to learn. We are ready to discuss. We are ready to get out there and find out for ourselves what is going on. We’re going to talk about religion and politics, and you guys are going to go find a new job.