From time to time an older post I’ve forgotten about pops up in the list of articles someone read today. Sometimes I click on it to see what it is. Back in 2011, when I was mostly writing things that related to my first novel, Angel, I posted something called Unlearning Not to Speak.
The title came from a poem I read when I was in college, which, as far as I remember, was about a woman learning not to fear her own voice. It resonated with me today because I had just finished reading an article that suggested that reduced civic engagement means that today there is “a severe lack of places where people can feel like they’ve been heard.”
With blogs and Twitter and all manner of new ways to express ourselves, we are sharing opinions left and right, but we’re not connecting, learning or solving problems together.
The premise of my old article was that we have much less to fear from speaking our minds than we believe.
You probably have friends of your own who are totally different from you. You say, “My friend is this crazy hippie,” or “My friend is kind of over-the-top about religion,” or “My friend is into all this New Age stuff,” or “My friend is obsessed with finding a man and I’m happy being single” or “He watches Fox News and I campaign for the Green Party…” You love them anyway.
Somehow this sentiment feels like it comes from a bygone era. Today differences in identity category, interest, opinion and affiliation feel like unbridgeable chasms. How did this happen? How do we fix it?