Why Is Talking Politics Off-Limits?

in this house we believe

This past week I had the opportunity to attend a virtual meeting of the Women of Toledo‘s Women’s Circle (Thank you Diana Patton for making me aware of this group). This is the first meeting that I attended, although I almost didn’t. You see, it started at 6:00 PM and I had to pick my daughter up from cross-country practice at the same time. If the meeting had been in person and in Toledo, I would have missed it for sure, and I even second-guessed joining the Zoom call at 6:07, but in the end decided, why not. As it turned out (and seems to occur more often than not with virtual events), they were experiencing technical difficulties so that meeting hadn’t kicked off yet. I am glad I decided to join as the topic of the evening was very timely to me.

The meeting was an open conversation with Carrie Hartman and Schuyler Beckwith who host the podcast “We’ve got issues, Girl!” The premise of the podcast is that there are many “women’s” issues out there aside from reproductive issues that are important and that we shouldn’t step aside and let men make all the decisions. Women make up 51% of the population in Ohio, yet hold only 29% of elected offices across all levels of government in Ohio. (https://matriotsohio.com/about/state-of-women-in-ohio-elected-office/). Ohio has never had a female govenor and the U.S. has never had a female president or vice president. Only the third woman in U.S. history is now running for vice president, Kamala Harris.

The discussion then centered on how Harris is unjustly being criticized for being “ambitious.” I for one, would rather a candidate running for office be ambitious and full of passion for representing me and making positive changes. They then took a pause and stopped as they had been referring to Harris, to her by her first name, “Kamala” as opposed to her last name, “Harris,” like we do with male candidates. Why? They reminded us that a political candidate is not a marriage commitment or life-long relationship, and thus does not have to be perfect. They hold office for their term and then you can vote for someone else. Instead they likened a candidate more like a bus ride, that gets you closer to your destination, which lead to an emphasis on the importance of voting (one of the issues I’m passionate about these days).

What struck me most was a story one of the speakers relayed about a time a few years ago when she was canvassing for a candidate she supported. Upon knocking on the door, a woman answered and said her husband wasn’t available. The speaker went on to say that she continued to speak to the woman about the candidate and gave her some materials. At the end of the conversation, she asked the woman if she could count on her vote. The woman responded, “I don’t know. My husband makes all those decisions.” Both the speakers (and I) were taken aback. It made me think, a lot. It has been 100 years since white women were finally allowed to vote (unfortunately, it took many more years for all women to be given the vote – and even today obstacles make it difficult for everyone to vote), and women were still deferring their vote to men. Why?

This made me reflect on my own life and history with politics. I’m sure I’ve written and even said…”I don’t like to talk about politics.” I’ve even felt it was bad to talk about politics. I’ve feared repercussions and ridicule for talking or writing about politics. I’ve changed the subject or kept quite about my views. If any of you know me or have followed my blog at all, you know that more and more I have been talking and writing about politics. Why? Because issues are important to me and to the future of my children. I believe it is important to have my voice heard and to educate others along the way if I can. Staying quiet is the easy way to protect myself from uncomfortable feelings. Respectful dialog is important to bring about changes that can benefit everyone. While traditions are good and things that aren’t broken don’t need to be fixed, there is always room for improvement and open-mindness to new ideas.

While political office is important at the federal and state level, the speakers pointed out that a lot of decisions are actually made at the local level…school boards, city councils, county commissions, township boards, etc. So even, if you don’t imagine yourself running for president or congress, there are plenty of opportunities to hold office at the local level. While I am not ready to run for office today, this is something I have been contemplating a lot lately and aspire to do down the road. Even if I ultimately decide not to run for office myself, I learned that in addition to voting (in every election, not just presidential ones as there are always something on the ballot to vote for), there are other ways to make have a seat at the table and participate. For example, I can look into and express interest in become part of one of the many boards and commissions that are making recommendations to our elected representatives, attend local school board and council meetings (even easier to do now that most are virtual) or work on a campaign for someone that is running.

In the past I’ve been adverse to putting signs in my yard or letting others know who I am voting for, but that has changed. I recently put a sign in my front yard that reads, “In this house, we believe: Black lives matter, women’s rights are human rights, no human is illegal, science is real, love is love, kindness is everything “. I also intended to put a “Biden/Harris 2020” and a “Nick Rubando for Congress” sign in my yard as well, even though I live in a very red county. My youngest daughter has already asked me to remove the sign I already have from my yard more than once. I know she will be upset when I add to my “sign” collection. I asked her why she wanted me to remove the sign. She said she was embarrassed and afraid her friends would see it. I asked what did it matter if her friends saw it. She went on to say she was afraid they would make fun of her or tell her it was wrong. I can get her fears of wanting to fit in with her peers. At her age, I too would have been mortified if my parents did something I thought my peer group wouldn’t like. However, I explained to her that I wasn’t going to take my sign down. Why? Because I have just as much right to express my ideas and promote the candidates that I support as do those who have “Trump/Pence,” “Re-elect Latta,” “Pray to End Abortion” and “Blue Lives Matter” signs in theirs. That is what America is all about. We live in a democracy.

Am I afraid these signs might make me a target for ridicule? Do I worry people will unfollow me or unfriend me because of a political post? I would be lying if I said I wasn’t. However, it is more important to me to show my daughters that I am allowed to have a voice even if I’m in the minority and that I am not going to let fear prevent me from being heard. I want to encourage them to stand up for what they believe in too and not stay quiet for as long as I did. If it were “OK” for women to be ambitious without criticism and we were encouraged to make our voices heard, politics might not be so taboo in “polite” circles. More and more I am realizing, it is OK to be “political.” Everything around us is political…whether we put in a stop light at the cross walk or plant trees in the park. Decisions are being made for us all around us. I want to be a part of the decisions. So the real question for me is, how can I not be political?