Must You Have a Public Opinion About Everything?

Aug 12, 2015

On Facebook a few months ago, a friend bemoaned that no one was talking about another tragic murder of a black man by a police officer. “Where is everybody?” she asked.

My face grew hot reading her comment. I wanted to post something immediately. I wanted to have an elegant, well-formed opinion. I wanted the right words. But I hadn’t even known about the murder, having been totally off-line and consumed with moving my mom.

That incident, and others – both on-line and in-person, made me start to wonder: are we supposed to have an opinion about everything now? If we are silent, are we complicit?

Yes, it is an absurd question – it’s impossible to form a well-researched opinion on much, let alone everything happening in the world – yet it is a question worth asking because the internet’s hyper connectivity and speed can turn into a blind, “I must do something, know something, and perhaps, most of all, SAY SOMETHING.”

And that can be oppressive and demoralizing, and lead us to measure the wrong things.

I realized I was starting to confuse having an opinion with taking action.

I realized it’s easier to talk about causes than to give money to them.

I realized it’s easier to want people to think I’m politically astute than to take political action behind the scenes, the boring work of writing senators about a carbon tax, for example.

And yes, it’s easier for me to judge someone who has a big public platform and yet never takes a stance on something than to remind myself, “It doesn’t mean he or she isn’t working for change in their own way.”

Believe me, I’m not advocating for silence or not sharing the causes you believe in. I strongly believe we must use our voices for social change (hell, yes!), and that we each get to decide where and how to do that. We must refrain from silent inaction and we must give real thought to where we want to put our time, energy, heart, and money.

My conclusion?

Less opining, more giving money.

Less feeling overwhelmed and throwing up my hands (aka “The world is so depressing, I’ll just go meditate and my vibe will make everything better”), more taking measured actions on the cause or two we care about.

Less thinking that we are alone in our activism, more reaching out to find like-minded people.

That’s the conclusion I’ve come to since feeling embarrassed reading my friend’s post. Now may I have the courage to live it.



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