From Clyde Jones, a retired public school teacher from Gastonia:
How we react when our political beliefs are challenged may reveal more about us than the beliefs themselves. An awareness of why we probably react as we do is a step forward in the building of a sane society.
• Some become angry and enraged. A sore spot has been touched. Loud protestations indicate we are convinced of the truth of our position. We have an infantile reaction, like a hurt child. We attack others and use ugly names. In the name of God we assign those with a different political party to a lesser stature.
This reaction is divisive, unproductive, and prevents harmony. However, the furious have a constitutional right to speak. We listen to the angry, hoping they will calm down and in time soften their approach.
• Some enter into debate argumentatively. Their voice is somewhat controlled, but their position is the only one they will consider. They may listen to the other side, not to see its truth but to exploit its weaknesses. There is an attempt to reach out, but their truth is believed to be obviously superior.
This reaction isn’t as divisive as the previous one. However, it stymies tolerance and peacefulness. The community shouldn’t attempt to silence this type, remembering it’s easier to tame a wild horse than to resurrect a dead one. Citizens will ask for clarification of words and point out inconsistencies. An appeal is made to reason and to a sense of fairness.
• Some appear indifferent and uninvolved. If there are strong feelings, they are quickly hidden or denied. It appears one’s feelings or opinions don’t matter.
This reaction can be damaging to the community and nation, even fatal if enough citizens take this stance. The indifferent may allow despots and intimidators to take over. One senses in the silent a history of being abused. They must be encouraged to speak no matter how softly. Home, school and church should encourage each child to share his feelings and become a true child of democracy. The community and nation will be a good listener and create avenues of involvement for all citizens.
• Some feel strongly about a political position but are willing to listen to opposing points of view and possibilities. They admit they may not have the whole truth. While they may disagree with another viewpoint, they respect a person’s right to hold it. They debate on the level of mature wisdom, not childish wrangling.
The community and nation should value and embrace these people. With luck, citizens will choose them to positions of responsibility. These are growing people who will be models of maturity. They will lead the way to a measure of happiness and creation of a just society.