Dawn Reader

Dawn Reader
from Open Door Coffee Co.; Hudson, OH; Oct. 26, 2016

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Why I Don't Post about Politics and Religion

On Facebook and on this blog I generally avoid saying anything too specific about politics or religion.  Both topics--especially in today's virulently polarized society--are certain to provoke anger from folks on one side or the other of the political or religious divides that yawn between us in this country. And I want to stay in touch with all my FB friends from yesteryear--no matter what they believe.  I have deep affection for my former students, even when they post things that set my brain a-buzz with disbelief.

But today ... an experience.  I just got back from the local health club (where I ride a stationary bike pretty much every day), and in the locker room, an old guy (i.e., someone about my age) was changing near me (I'd never seen him before) and after some chit-chat about the balmy weather, he suddenly told me three things with absolute certainty:

1. President Obama is going to have us all tattooed (think: Auschwitz).
2. Under the new health care law, Catholic hospitals must perform abortions.
3. Under the new health care law, a nurse living, say, in Ohio must move to Iowa if a hospital needs him/her there.

Well, there was no gainsaying him, and I didn't even try.  (It's pointless when someone is so positive.)

But think of this: I spent my career trying to get things right--trying to sure of my facts.  I urged my students to do the same.  I have a profound respect for what is factual/actual.  And here's what I've learned: If we can't agree on what the facts are, then we cannot have a conversation.  And if we can't have conversations, then democracy--not to be too dramatic--is doomed.

Whenever I hear a hot Internet rumor, my first stop is Snopes.com. People should go there--or to other fact-checking sites--when they hear that their microwave will blow up if they heat water in it--or that chipmunk chatter is the basis of Old English--or that a public figure is Satan.  I checked out the three statements above, and guess what?  (Well, I didn't check the first one ... please!)

Today, so many of us--too many of us--get our "news" from a source that simply confirms our biases--on both sides of the political/religious divides.  We can spend the day reading/viewing only things that we already support--and watching TV bloviators bellowing at one another from far extremes. Shouldn't we make the effort to learn what the facts are?  And what reasonable people are saying on various sides of issues?  (Key word, of course, reasonable.)

I am a Democrat--and have voted that way since I first voted in 1968.  But many members of my family--especially on my dad's side (including my dad himself)--are/were Republicans.  I love them.  I disagree with them, sure, but I don't demonize them.  I don't think they're Nazis--or evil--or anti-American--or whatever.  Quite the opposite.  Some of them are among the finest human beings I have ever known.  I also have friends who live on all points of the religious continuum--from atheists to the most pious followers of various religions (my grandfather, father, and uncle were all ordained Christian ministers). I don't care what they believe--as long as they treat me the same.

So, my (probably) naive and quixotic plea is this--let's find out what's factual; let's start with that.  Then let's talk ...  Otherwise, all we do is yell--and share ignorance.


  1. I agree, though I can't help drop a few links onto FB when the mischievous mood strikes. (I am disappointed, however, to learn that chipmunk chatter is not the basis of Old English.)

  2. Okay, okay, no politics then . . . But I can't help laughing and thinking, hmmm.

    And imagining an assignment to test you--perhaps asking for a brief, but not political, but current response the poem, "New Colossus,"
    esp. the lines . . .

    . . . "Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door!"

  3. I hear you, Nin--and I think you know that I have pretty strong political/religious opinions--and I think you know on which side of the line(s) they lie. But ... here's the thing: It's the "Old Teacher" in me. I know that if I alienate people over one thing, I have no influence over them on other things--and vice-versa. Early in my career, I was overtly political in class (during the Vietnam War), and I turned off lots of kids whom I might have positively influenced in other ways. Later in my career, I virtually never offered a political/religious opinion in class--believing (rightly, I think) that if I kept those thoughts to myself, I could have an effect on kids I might otherwise alienate. Could be wrong. But it's what I've practiced now for quite a while. And I see Facebook as an extension of my classroom--a chance to post things that might affect folks positively--IF they're not predisposed to disdain everything I say b/c I'm a bleeding heart liberal!