The three things you aren’t supposed to mention in polite conversation. I figured since it has been so long since I’ve devoted time to a post (read as a month) I would start here, with the big three. In truth I wont be talking about sex,
drugs, and rock and roll religion, and politics separately, but rather what these off-limit subjects mean for our relationships.
A friend of mine told me the other day that these three topics should in fact be the things most frequently discussed. At first I was rather taken aback to be perfectly honest. I pictured walking up to a person and saying “Hi there, its a pleasure to meet you, I haven’t had sex in a while, I tend to vote liberal, and while I understand religion’s purpose for many people, I think its mostly ridiculous.” Obviously this isn’t what he meant, instead he brought up a very good point, that only when you discuss these topic with someone can you be sure you are friends.
Allow me to elaborate. The first time I meet someone I won’t bring these topic to the table for our discussion. It would scare them off, and it should because these topics are so personal. The second time I hang out with this person I probably won’t bring them up, and probably not for a while after that. But once I know this person, what they like to do for fun, what their major it, and if they are a dog or a cat person, its time to add some depth to our conversations. That is when these big three topics need to be talked about before a friendship can progress. If I don’t know this person’s religious inclinations, political affiliations, or sexual preferences how well do I know this person? There is not a lot more personal, more meaningful than these topics. Once I’ve talked about these things with a person, and come out the other side, there is proof positive that we’re friends and worth spending time on and with.
Now I want to talk this a step further. Sure this works great on a personal level, once you know a person, but what about on a societal level? I think it can, and it should work on a societal level. Let me begin with stating WHY these themes need to be discussed by society at large, and then I’ll move on to try and see if it is possible.
- Politics- Our country was founded with the idea that people would discuss their political ends. Don’t believe me? Then take a look at the first amendment. Freedom of speech. If this doesn’t show that this democracy needs discussion I don’t know what does. An unwillingness to talk about our political views is one of the things that has lead to the relative gridlock in the government as it stands. There is no discussion, there is no exchange of ideas, there are simply platforms. And these platforms have been turned on their sides to form walls to stop progress. I would challenge you to have a genuine political discussion with someone, one where you don’t hate them going in because they are on the other side of the spectrum, and not be able to see where they are coming from. Sure their goals may not align with your’s, but I would bet they aren’t the illogical dribble of an idiot the pundits would have you believe it is. Open discussion, open the floodgates to successful politics. When people can talk, compromise happens, and that is what made this country what it is.
- Religion- Unfortunately (in my view) religion has become increasingly intertwined with politics, which makes it all the more pressing to talk about. Whether you like it or not religious values are the driving force behind many people’s actions everyday, and that is not a bad thing. It just has to be understood. When religion becomes taboo that is when intolerance gets started. I’m not saying that the religions of the world will be able to come together into a super religion and all conflict will end, what I’m saying is that people will be able to understand each other. Not all Muslims are terrorists, not all Christians “hate fags”, and when you talk to people you can’t not come to that conclusion. Just as your religion (or lack there of) is a very personally defining feature for you, so is it for someone else. You have your reasons for believing what you believe, and they have theirs for believing what they believe. You aren’t that different. At all. Talk about it, understand these deeply personal topics. Once you do you’ll understand the other person.
- Sex- I left this for last, because it covers a lot. Sure the act of sex itself is taboo, mostly because our society is so afraid of finding out what our neighbors are doing that we aren’t. But the act of sex is only moderately important to talk about. There are the choices around sex, and every adolescentneeds to be taught about this as they reach puberty. Yes that’s important, and yes it effects people’s lives in a very real way, but its not nearly as important than discussion around sexual identity. When you identify your sexual orientation that becomes a huge part of your personal identity. I was recently shown a video of a young man speaking to the Iowa state congress (link) about being raised by two women. To these women it is the topic of sex that keeps their family from being recognized by the state. I don’t mean to push a political agenda with this (but I am so TALK to me about it) all I mean to suggest is that we have a real discussion about this meaningful topic. This theme that holds so much weight over people’s lives, and yet we haven’t had enough of a free discussion for many people to really understand it.
At this point you are probably wondering how I aim to uphold these lofty goals. Society seems to be built to defeat me here, to stop the conversation before it can start. Allow me then to offer a simple rule to make sure these conversations can happen. Yep, one rule. Just one. That’s all I need to beat society and get these things discussed. In fact I’m sure you are familiar with it.
Here it is.
“Treat other’s as you would like to be treated.”
Did you see it coming? A few years ago I had to look into the golden rule for a debate topic, and found that the sentiment expressed in these words can be found in nearly every society across the world. Certainly every major religion. If we truly upheld this, simple, elegant standard, we could start to have the tough conversations. We could sit down at a table with a fellow human being and tell them about what means most to us. Our society could finally begin to compromise again and how could we not be better for that?
I am a straight male, I lean left politically (but I own guns, so not too far left), and I was raised Unitarian Universalist.