So, it’s been about a little over two months that we have been honing in on this topic of “expressing yourself.”
Each time I record a podcast with my dear friend Ms. Linda McShan, and blog about the podcast topic, it is an effort to explore my curiosity—and my life experiences—and to share what I have learned along the way.
Two episodes ago, I was in distress over the chaos created by the power change in the state’s government where I live, which was impacting my work at a state agency, was impacting the morale of my colleagues and our culture at work, and was creating a conflict with my personal values. I was being “stopped.”
Ms. Linda played a song called “If You Dream” at the beginning of the show today, about living your dream and being unstoppable. That’s a fitting place to start, and helps provide some perspective to the topic we want to explore. Here is the podcast link, if you want to listen. Warning: it's a bit of a personal rant: hang in there, eventually I make my point, lol!
How can you continue to dream, to use your voice, in this crazy world? When chaos is all around? How can you be “unstoppable?”
In this case, the chaos that came with the new administration brought orders of public censorship, as well as potentially harmful changes in law and policy. All of that non-democratic behavior notwithstanding, what was hardest for me to accept were the explicit expectations to conform to the new orders without protest or question.
Before I voluntarily left that environment (resigning to take a job elsewhere), I did both: protested, and questioned.
In order to succeed in the future, we must give our ALL in the moment.
Ultimately, this life experience reminded me that it is important to choose a community where you feel you can truly be yourself. Where you can honor your personal values. Where you can give it your all.
Moreover, you can strive to be a positive force (for good) in the world where your own ideas and talents are more likely to be accepted. Where you can grow. Where you can change, challenge your assumptions, and not rest on a "way of being;" we are constantly evolving as spiritual beings in these human bodies!
How do you express your individualism within a community? Where it will be appreciated?
Have you ever found yourself wondering where your “tribe” is?
Have you struggled with how to safely move out of an “echo chamber,” when you cannot echo back what they want to hear?
Have you yearned to move into an environment that may allow more freedom of expression?
Have you been bullied into having to listen to someone else’s way of thinking, while they had no interest in hearing your own views?
STAND FOR YOU
So, my point is this:
The problem with the echo chamber is the pressure to conform.
For many upright Americans, the desire to think for yourself and to be able to operate at optimal levels without oppressive political tactics is not only an affront to the democratic way…it is an attack on the soul of the individual, an inhibition to individual expression, and betrayal of the public trust.
America’s public dilemma has become our personal problem.
If you are one of those individuals who would like to continue to act in a way that allows you to express yourself, to think for yourself, what do you do when the environment is trying to force you to stand for something in opposition to your own values? An environment whose leaders are trying to force the people to remain silent?
One idea is: When it’s hard to find your tribe, you may have to make your own. Ms. Linda says "you are your own tribe!"
Because of the divisions we face in America due to the political and religious lines that are being drawn, we are being forced to either conform, remain silent, or...is there a third choice? When you are an individual trying to operate within a group, what do you do? Can you speak your own mind in an echo chamber?
The definition of "oppression" has to do with unjust control of one group, of one group of people over another.
It is inferred to also mean "unfair," "dishonest," and something "not done to accepted moral standards." In America, we seem to be in disagreement about what our moral standards are; not just those reflected in a certain religion but those that are universally known.
We put elected officials into office to represent what we think are accepted moral standards. They may have personal beliefs that drive their public behavior. But one of the problems today is that we see these political "power" players use their public positions to bludgeon or punish, demoralize, or otherwise dismiss other people.
I believe the founders, the original authors of the U.S. Constitution, meant well, even if the men who wrote it were flawed. The tenets of our American "mission statement" in a sense are the vital pillars of freedom and individualism that we want to uphold as a community. The problem is that individualism is being torn down by pressures of group conformity.
The First Amendment was meant to protect our right to dissent, as I see it. You should be able to disagree with a public official without being sanctioned. I'm not saying you should try to obstruct or derail government. I am saying, however, that our elected officials should do a better job of listening to other voices, and including other people in their decision making.
My assertion is this podcast "rant" episode is that America seems to be on a fast train of someone else's personal mission that does not represent ALL of US.
BEWARE OPPRESSION: IT CAN BE SUBTLE
In America, the pendulum has swung too far, apparently. People don't recognize oppression until it happens to them: the current "hostile takeover" that is an overreaction by the powers that be—those who have come into elected positions—represents a formerly silent minority trying to become the majority. The trend is to reverse the populism that we have been working so hard to achieve (my opinion, only).
Our protection of individual rights in America is the fight to include all the people, as was expressed in the founding documents of the republic. This is the evolution we have been on for 200 years. The "great democratic experiment" in America requires us to continue to challenge our beliefs based on outdated, anachronistic ways of doing things: the people have said they want to continue to grow as a nation, to evolve, and recognize the power of the individual, and honoring the civil rights we have fought hard to achieve.
Ms. Linda emphasized in the podcast the importance of doing your research about each individual running for a public office, to ensure that the person can effectively represent you.
At this point of the podcast, I got on my soapbox. I won't recount it here; you'll have to listen to the recording, lol!
I overdramatized to make the point: we the people must stop the trend, we must find our voices, make a choice to use it. If you do not, you will continue to find yourself going down this path: if you don't stand up and use your individual rights in America, people groups will continue to be hurt by the people in power.
I'm not advocating the cancel culture: I myself have problems with extreme views on either end of the political spectrum. My assertion is if you do what is right by people, and remember and hold yourself to the universal accepted moral standards, we can continue to live and operate in America without giving in to the "crazy people." We all know who they are, and the power they may have to hurt others.
We must use our common sense: have we lost our minds in America? It's not even about politics: it's about common sense and using your voice to express these commonly held and widely understood morals. Challenge the political rhetoric, and the attempts to muddy the waters or confuse you: ignore the name calling, the straw man arguments, the conflation of unrelated ideas or downplaying of what's really important while they try and distract you from the real issues.
We have been able to freely move in America: people have died for these rights. We live in a world of ideas: let's preserve that!
People who are in real community have a sense of a shared world. The understanding between people who are connected according to their values goes without words: you know what you know.
Individualism and freedom are vital pillars of a community. I'd like us to be able to move into environments that allow us freedom of expression. I'd like us not to feel stopped by someone yelling that we need to think like they do.
We want our elected officials to be the best parts of us: when government starts to feel oppressive: if those who are elected do not appear to have their hearts in the right place, do you stand with them?
If we become more of like mind in the world, we don't have to argue, do we? We want everyone to feel included, and loved, in the world. Why can't we do that?
MAKE A CHOICE, USE YOUR VOICE
Above all, stand up for yourself. Don't be afraid to confront the ideas you disagree with.
DON'T: Don't lose the ability to attract others who believe as you do. Don't be forced to conform. Don't be afraid to speak up for fear of punishment. The minute we do, we are living the opposite of freedom: we are living in fear. That's not a democracy.
DO: Continue to use your voice. Learn the issues. Know the people you vote for: know their hearts, and how they are likely to behave if you elect them into office, giving them "the keys to the kingdom." You don't want to be living in a place, or working in a job, where you end up being "bullied" by the people you put in power.
Learn to use your voice. Don't lose it; make a choice to work with those whose heart and actions represent your values. Stay true to the dream that is America's democracy: vote those into power whose heart is for the people. All of them. Not just some of them.
Back to the lyrics that Ms. Linda opened this segment with:
If you dream, then you can do anything
If you dream, you're halfway to destiny
If you dream, dream the impossible
If you dream 'cause a dream's unstoppable