Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Reasonably Mouthy

A friend of mine recently described herself as being "reasonably mouthy," which is the sort of description I love. I think she meant that she was "somewhat mouthy" or "mouthy within the realms of reasonable-ness -- not excessively mouthy" but I did not ask her.

I rolled the phrase around in my brain for a little bit, and then decided that I loved it for another reason entirely, and that I think of myself as reasonably mouthy because a) I am reasonable -- I like to argue from a place of rationality and b) I am mouthy -- I have an almost pathological need to stand up for philosophies and politics and justice as needed (and I've noticed that it's almost always needed).

As the election cycle dwindles, I'm more convinced that we are a nation being dominated by the unreasonably mouthy -- individuals who come from places devoid of rational thought, but who cannot seem to stop talking regardless of that fact -- and that, as it turns out, the more unreasonable the mouth, the more air time and play it gets. This might make good tv, but it makes lousy politics. It also serves to silence quieter, more rational arguments -- perhaps that is the intention. By listening only to the loudest voices, we discourage the rest of the voices who feel as though they will never be heard, as though there is no point to speaking at all, and as such allow our political process to be dominated by an extreme few who don't necessarily represent the beliefs of their parties or their constituents.

I believe that saying that this is not okay might be one of the grosser understatements that I have ever made.

As a reasonably mouthy person, I do know that I have a tendency to stomp all over places where angels fear to tread, mostly because I have noticed this: the places where we most need rational discourse are also most often the places where we have the least of it, and when we shy away from having rational conversations about controversial topics, we do nothing but ensure that they will continue to be both controversial and unresolved. I feel as though in order to come to a place of understanding and, when possible, compromise, we need the reasonably mouthy -- people who are not afraid to start or continue real conversations about those issues, so that we can unpack them, examine them, and move forward as a society.

Because, at the end of the day, what we need IS real conversation, not shouting matches where the loudest person wins, and not conversations where those of differing opinions are dismissed as evil. We also need to understand -- especially as a society that prides itself on freedom of religion -- that we need to stop using religion as a key element in public political discourse because, though we are all citizens of this nation and therefore subject to its laws and civil liberties, we are not all praying to or obeying the same notion of God. I know that the statement that religion has no place in reasonable mouthiness might be offensive to some people, but I would say -- again, with reason -- that if you would not like to be made subject to the rules and regulations of someone else's religion, you should reconsider before you legally subject them to the rules and regulations of your own -- because to do so would not be reasonable; I've noticed that few productive political conversations take place after God is introduced into them, if only because then the conversation is about religious beliefs, and who's are better, and who's are more valid, rather that whatever the original subject was.

I also understand that the previous paragraph falls into the category of stomping where angels fear to tread. Don't say I didn't warn you.

I feel as though reasonable mouthiness is required in order to make this a country that actually provides both liberty and justice for all. Not just for people of the correct background, with the correct religion, the correct level of education, the correct work ethic, number of children, amount in their bank account. For ALL. That's you and me and the guy over there. That's those who pray in a mosque and those who pray in cathedrals and those who pray in the woods. It's the people who shout their beliefs -- but it's also the rest of us. There are more of us than there are of them.

We should all be reasonably mouthy.

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