I have been known to have debates in restaurants about politics. When they end, I am crying at the table while my opponent sits smugly. “Why are you taking it so personally?” they ask.
Why aren’t you?, I wonder.
The passionate turn politics has taken brings to the fore beliefs, ideas and leanings that were once kept behind closed doors. I could be friends with someone for years before knowing how they felt about abortion, Newt Gingrich and gun laws. But with Facebook and Twitter, I know more about my friends by their newsfeed than if I were having meals with them on a weekly basis.
In many respects, this new form of socializing has made me better at debate; however, it has also made me cautious about my opinions. I know I can express them, but I am still passionate about them. Sometimes, I still feel like crying, but mostly I make typos instead. I still take them personally.
This is what typically happens: I post an action report, calling for signatures to stop, start or fight whatever cause I think deserves attention. Somebody who disagrees chimes in with their opinion. I respond and am temporarily proud of my ability to be calm and clear, while also being decisive and strong. But inevitably, my responses become emotionally charged. It is apparent that my mind cannot be swayed because I believe in this cause. And then comes the next comment: “You’re obviously taking this personally.”
Shouldn’t we all believe passionately and strongly in the causes for which we are fighting? It makes me wonder: if you don’t take it personally, then why are you engaging in something that will change the lives of people who do care about it? Or is it that you care, but you don’t care that much?
My husband is a philosopher and will often engage me in debate (what he diplomatically calls “discourse”). He typically plays the role of devil’s advocate. After some back and forth, my blood pressure rises and I’m becoming more and more upset. My husband cannot understand my reaction. I finally have to point out that if he doesn’t care about the issue and is only engaging me for the exercise of dialogue, he has to stop, because I do care. Why will I continue to pursue a topic about which I am passionate when the person to whom I’m speaking is not?
It is unfair and impractical to say what’s coming next, but I’ll do it anyway: I sometimes wish that the issues that affect other people’s lives could be decided by the people who truly care about the issue. I don’t like voters who instigate change without caring or understanding the issue. But that is what our country allows, and rightly so, of course. It only means that for those issues I take personally… I have to speak more often, more clearly and with even more passion.
With all that being said, my current cause is Planned Parenthood.
Stand for Planned Parenthood. Yes, some locations perform abortions. But ALL locations provide cancer screening, breast exams and self-exam instruction, pap smears, sex education, condoms, proper birth planning and contraception use – for women AND for men.
Having grown up in ten foster homes, I lacked the comfort and relationships required to be properly educated in menstruation, puberty, vaginal exams, tests and infections, and – of course – sex. I needed a place I could afford, both while in foster homes and after aging out (when I had NO INSURANCE nor the education on how to get it) to attend to my own reproductive health. I needed to know how to perform a breast exam, how to use a vaginal cream, how to use condoms, how to protect myself against venereal disease, what to do if I feel pain in my uterus, what to do if I thought I felt a lump in my breast, what to do if I continually got UTIs or yeast infections, get tested for diseases, and get my boyfriend tested for diseases.
Planned Parenthood is more than an institution that provides women with abortions (which they are legally allowed to do as abortions are a woman’s legal right – that law isn’t changing soon), but they are also an affordable haven for women to focus on their health without judgment. Without affordable woman’s health, what would happen? Where will we go? Who can we turn to? Without this option, what other option will you provide?
Stand up. Fight for what you believe in and for what you need. And damn it all – TAKE IT PERSONALLY! Sign the letter.