Recently in a conversation I was involved in, someone said “disabled people.” This was quickly and politely corrected by someone else who said: “Just so you know, the correct term is people with a disability because their disability doesn’t define them as a human being.” As someone who knows quite a lot about “the correct term” and things of that nature, I held my breath as I waited to hear their response. As the conversation continued, I decided to leave because as in the social climate we live in, it is important to pick your battles.
Many people, especially in younger generations, seem to be taking steps to the left as time goes by. At the same time, those on the right are digging their heels in as they are quite content with where they are. At times, the internet, or even real life, can feel like a battleground of opinions about anything and everything. I’ve always loved expressing and fervently backing and defending my opinion. It was so bad that I would pretend to have an opinion just to push someone’s buttons: even stooping to engaging in heated debates about Frozen. So I was confused when I found that I didn’t enjoy doing that anymore. The difference was in the goals of the conversations. In the past, it was just to engage in a playful conversation or sometimes it was just to learn about a new way of thinking. Debates and discussion today rarely feel that way, so I decided to take a backseat in these conversations.
When I was taking a backseat in debates, I still thought about many of the arguments that I’d had and which ones left me exhausted. These conversations play out by attacking the person instead of challenging the idea. These feel like personal attacks—not because they’re directed at specific characteristics of a person—but because politics are personal. Sometimes politics don’t feel personal because it’s the government with all of its policy, procedure, and law. Nothing could appear less personal while being very personal. Marginalized groups, when discussed in debates, feel like an abstract idea but those marginalized groups are made up of real human beings with full lives and people that they know and love. Discussions of healthcare seem like they are about money and numbers and while yes, those things are very important, there are real people in need of healthcare. The same thing applies to almost anything political.
So when the political becomes personal, the debates become personal. For many, debates become personal as we discuss their reality with someone who experiences it as an abstract idea. There is no malintent, but intent doesn’t always matter in situations like these. Sometimes, skipping these conversations and an opportunity to introduce a new way of thinking to someone merely ignorant can leave a guilty feeling. “If I don’t educate them, who will?” That’s not your burden to bear and it’s okay to prioritize yourself.