Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Definitions, Politics, and Social Work

With the exponential increase in political discussions that have risen around me recently, I've noticed something that is making many it hard (at least for me, personally) to reach common ground and sometimes even respect with the people I've engaged with: many of us seem to have very different definitions for the same ideas. This has happened most often with open-mindedness vs. close-mindedness, , and love vs. hate. 

Recently, (but not for the first time) a certified Internet Troll told me I was being close-minded because I wouldn't entertain various racist alternative factoids that he shared with me. I realize that I also found him to be close-minded. I don't know how much research or thought he has put into the ideas he adheres to, but he was as stubbornly stuck to his as I am to mine.

I know we aren't talking about things like whether or not pizza flavored macaroni and cheese is delicious, and that lives are endangered because of the ideas that we had the privilege to argue about.  As I write this, I'm realizing that I don't actually care much whether I'm perceived as open-minded or closed, but it's something that keeps coming up. How should I handle it?

The same happens with love vs. hate. This has been especially clear to me as I've gradually become more open about being queer over the past decade. To some, a "love the sinner, hate the sin" mentality is Christ-like and loving. To me, it is a clear judgment and reeks of conditional love rather than unconditional. 

When the Women's March happened a few weeks ago, many marched with signs that said "Love Trumps Hate" while some who did not march called the rallies themselves hateful. 

How do you, personally, handle these types of arguments? I generally tend to avoid them because they don't feel productive. Are they? Is there a better way to go about advocating for myself and for marginalized populations? 

I wonder if the answer to those questions would be more clear if I were not a social worker. I take my career choice very seriously; it makes up a generous portion of my identity. As a result, I feel that I'm faced with some things: my strongly held beliefs about human rights and social justice, using my privilege and my role to be an advocate for people with a wide variety of needs, my belief that everyone has the right to self-determination, and my desire to help people through providing therapy. The second two sometimes clash with the first two, and sometimes personal and professional bleed into one another in confusing ways.

How do you handle this?

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