Tuesday, November 30, 2004

Squeaky wheels

I used to hide my opinions. I used to get slightly embarrassed when I’d be talking to someone about a controversial topic and start to get riled up. My more intense emotions, I felt were incredibly intimate, and only shown to a few privileged friends & family. It seemed rude, somehow to inflict my outrage on others. The squeaky wheel getting the grease, in action. I hate the squeaky wheel. Just because someone is loud doesn’t make their opinions or feelings any more valid than any anyone else’s.

I don’t know if this is a cultural thing or a family thing, or just my own freaky attempt at doing unto others… I for one get rather annoyed when someone else inflicts their unsolicited opinions and vitriol on me. So I try very hard to not inflict mine on them. Over the years, however that feeling ended up being reinforced by personal feelings of inadequacy (i.e. “guys don’t like loud, strident women” and “a good professional should keep their personal opinions to themselves”) and percolated down to the point where I would stifle my opinions even in the face of someone who was making absolutely no effort to extend the same courtesy to me. Because I was raised to respect the right of everyone to their own opinion, no matter how much I disagreed with what they had to say.

Well no more. Not the respecting others opinions part, but the being so timid in meeting those loud opinions with my own – loudly, clearly and yes, if the mood strikes, emotionally. If nothing else this election has shown me that my silence can be deadly. As much as I hate it, the squeaky wheel isn’t going anywhere. In today’s culture, an opinion unvoiced is an opinion that does not exist and gets no respect. I can respect someone else’s right to theirs while loudly shouting mine to the rooftops. And that’s what it’s going to take. Because for too long, we on the left have let the blowhards on the right have their say without offering any contrary voices of our own and they’ve become arrogant as a result, hearing their own views echoed back to them in the inevitable silence of the public airwaves and around the water coolers of America. We’re extending them a respect that they sure as hell don’t plan to reciprocate.

That needs to stop. Now. I’ve started by engaging my ditto head coworkers whenever they start bashing progressive ideas (which they do on a daily basis). Letting myself get pissed. Letting them not only see my outrage but be forced to deal with it, goddammit. I thought after the election the liberal bashing would stop. So for the sake of peace (and my blood pressure) before then I’d let it slide, volunteer more and picked my battles very, very carefully. But I was wrong. It didn’t stop. It just moved from the national level to the local level. Instead of Kerry they’re now bashing the City of Portland and it’s progressive government/ culture and I’ve had it.

I’m finding that outrage properly expressed is an extremely effective tool. Once they meet some legitimate emotional resistance to their caustic blathering they tend to shut up. Who’da thunk?

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