This I Believe

Gary - Hood River, Oregon
Entered on August 22, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: question

I believe in discussing politics in public.

While in a medical office awaiting an appointment for my mother-in-law, my wife and I were discussing political issues of the day, fueled on by an article in a news magazine about the war in Iraq, the decline of the president, and where we go from here as a nation.We were speaking in a hushed tone but our discussion was clearly audible one chair away where my mother-in-law sat. After a while, she looked up and said, “I’d tell you two not to discuss politics in public, but you’d probably tell me not to interfere with a husband-and-wife argument.”

We weren’t really arguing, just discussing politics. We let the discussion drift off and assumed the “elevator silence” that is expected of people in public.

Later, I thought about her comment and concluded that discussion of politics in public should not only be practiced, it should be encouraged. Although my mother-in-law was probably trying to prevent us from seeming like fools in an arena we had no depth of knowledge about, she was wrong. It was only our respect for her wishes that we dropped the conversation and kept quiet.

However, my fear is that if everybody always kept quiet about politics, it would be a process that went on only behind closed doors and silenced walls, initiated by only a few, pursuing interests that they alone would know about. Indeed, if public silence were the norm in personal, political views, how would we advance our knowledge about political affairs at all? How would we know if our elected officials are representing our concerns if they never hear us? And if my wife and I voice some hair-brained idea that we feel would be the solution to some problem confronting the world, and another individual overhears us and tactfully points out the flaws, then aren’t we all the wiser for it?

Perhaps that is the key: tact. My wife and I both agree that bludgeoning somebody to unconsciousness with a baseball bat because they have a different view will never change their mind; just reinforce their views. But we all need to speak our voice and we all need to listen to others who do the same.

I believe it was George Burns who said, “Too bad all the people who know how to run the country are busy driving taxi cabs and cutting hair.” Perhaps he was right. But this is a nation full of taxi cab drivers and people cutting hair. And they vote. They vote based on the knowledge they have about the issues. Or lack of. If we never discuss politics in public, then democratic voting by the people becomes a dangerous joke. Without public discussion comes secrecy and that is not a society I want to live in. Everybody needs to talk politics in public – but leave the bat at home. Bring your ears and ideas instead. This I believe.


*Born in Corvallis, Oregon, 1952

*Disabled Vietnam-Era Veteran, 1974-1977

*Majored in Scientific-Technical Communication at Clark College in Vancouver, WA

*Currently living in Hood River, OR

*Employed with Region Nine Education Service District in The Dalles, Oregon as

StRUT Warehouse Manager for last three years. (StRUT: Students Recycling Used

Technology, a non-profit computer recycling and distribution program for Students)

Contact information:

4229 Barrett Drive

Hood River, OR 97031

541.386.4220 (hm)

541.296.2630 (wk)