What’s your opinion?

prickly pear cactus
Prickly pear cactus are starting to appear.

I remember while growing up, my parents would talk politics over the fence with neighbors as easily as they’d talk tomatoes. It was polite, civil and people’s opinions were all over the place.

I’d get into heavy discussions about religion with one of my best friends. We sincerely wanted each other’s opinions.

Those days are over.

In fact, in a Cato Institute survey self-censorship is the norm:

A new Cato national survey finds that self‐​censorship is on the rise in the United States. Nearly two-thirds—62%—of Americans say the political climate these days prevents them from saying things they believe because others might find them offensive. The share of Americans who self‐​censor has risen several points since 2017 when 58% of Americans agreed with this statement.

These fears cross partisan lines. Majorities of Democrats (52%), independents (59%) and Republicans (77%) all agree they have political opinions they are afraid to selfshare.

https://www.cato.org/survey-reports/poll-62-americans-say-they-have-political-views-theyre-afraid-share#liberals-are-divided-political-expression

The survey found that only very liberal democrats feel free to express their opinions.
Middle-of-the-road Democrats self-censor as do Independents and Republicans.

Why do you think this happened? Is it because the political divide is wider than ever before? Or lack of civility? Is it because people are getting their news from separate universes? Do you share religious or political beliefs? Or do you self-censor?

Live now. Procrastinate later.

watercolor painting of cabin
A watercolor by my grandma of our cabin in Washington.

I have been avoiding a difficult conversation for months now. It’s been eating at me. I’ve prayed to find the right words. I received an email yesterday that I needed to answer — and I realized I was being handed the perfect opportunity. I decided on the outset of the day to call right away and get it over with. But first I took my morning walk.

I think by procrastinating, literally for months, I was building the call into something it wasn’t. I was making a bigger deal out of the call than it was. I knew I’d be anxious all day, so I chose to make the call in the morning.

By putting off the inevitable, I was stressing myself out and generating needless anxiety.

Yes, I did it. I feel like a huge weight is off my shoulders. The person I talked with is very reasonable and understanding. That helps.

I remember working as a financial advisor, I hated some calls more than others. I could easily put some calls off on the back burner — until they absolutely had to be made.

I have a sign sitting on my desk that says “Live now. Procrastinate later.” I should look at the sign a little more often.

What do you do when faced with a conversation you don’t want to have? Do you tackle it right away? Or avoid it at all costs? Do you do the same thing with chores or things you don’t want to do like taxes? Or do you face the monster and end the nightmare?

cat on a desk
Just mow I found Olive on my desk.

Is civility a lost art?

I wrote this post six years ago about getting yelled at by a stranger. It really unnerved me. I asked if civility was a lost art. I’m sad to say that I think things have gotten worse over the years. Not better.

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I think we are on the verge of losing an important piece of our society. The art of civility and decency. In my humble opinion, the virtual world has a lot to do with this. Look at the comment section of any news site or political page and what you’ll read will turn your face red. Name calling, cursing along with disgusting references to body parts. Their mothers and grandparents must be so proud!

It’s so easy to comment and be rude when you’re not face to face with another person and you’re hiding behind your keyboard. As a former board member of my kids’ swim team for a million years, I was often surprised when someone who I had enjoyed talking with on the pool deck sent me a scathing email. I guess it was easier for them to vent over the keyboard rather then express their opinion to me in person.

Olive cat in an uncivil mood.
Olive in an uncivil mood.

What happens when this “no-holds-barred” behavior moves from behind the screen to the real world? Think about that for a few minutes. If every person you encountered in a day had to let loose with a verbal attack. (What does that expression mean anyway? From Merriam-webster online: free of restrictions or hampering conventions <a no–holds–barred contest> This expression was first used in wrestling matches allowing all types of holds.)

I was sitting at our local Street Fair this week, volunteering five hours of my time to register voters. Most people were very friendly and polite. It wasn’t a busy night for our “register to vote booth” because there’s no big election coming up in the next few months. I smiled at people as they walked by. It’s fun to see them smile in return. I was enjoying that.

Then one woman stopped in the middle of the street and yelled at me.

“Why did you give us that look?”

I said, “Huh? Excuse me?” I had never seen this person in my life. I had not seen her walk by.

“You smiled at those people,” she pointed. “But you gave me a dirty look! What was that about?” she shouted at me.

“You’re mistaken, I wasn’t looking at anyone.” Indeed I was lost in my thoughts. I had a brief moment of missing my kids who are away at college.

“You’re very rude! Typical for someone in your party!” the woman yelled at me.

I was a little shaken. Wondering what gave her the right to yell at me — someone she’d never met before. I thought this was a prime example about our loss of civility.

We tell our kids to be kind to other people and we teach the Golden Rule. We punish them if they get in a fight and we are horrified if they are mean to anyone. But, seriously? They learn more from our actions then we care to believe. I have an idea. Let’s try to be examples to our kids. Let’s try to be someone worthy of our kids adoration and someone we’d like them to respect. Be kind to one another. And if you can’t be kind, at least be decent.

My daughter and lifetime friends, enjoying life on their swim team.
My daughter and lifetime friends enjoying life on their swim team.

“Be civil to all, sociable to many, familiar with few, friend to one, enemy to none.”

– Benjamin Franklin

What are your thoughts about civility? Do you think things have gotten worse over the past six years when I wrote this? Do you think the anonymity of social media and hiding behind our computers or phones adds to it?

The great ping pong war

ping pong balls above a keyboard
I found my missing ping pong balls in my husband’s office.

The friendly games of ping pong between me and my husband took a highly competitive turn with a sprinkle of shady dealings with ping pong balls yesterday.

I like the brand of balls named Kettler that came in the box with our ping pong table. They don’t have a lot of bounce. They are soft to the touch and I have a better feel with my paddle. I’ve mastered a serve that I discovered on the Youtube video on killer serves. It’s a tricky little serve that barely makes it over the net and bounces a bunch of times away from the opponent. It only works with the Kettler balls for me.

My husband likes ping pong balls from a brand called Stiga. They have a lot of bounce and I can’t control my shots as well. My return flies off the table without bouncing when my husband has a fast, strong serve. I lose a ton of points that way. In fact, I think I only lose because of the Stiga balls.

“That’s fine if you want to win that way,” I told my husband.

“What??”

“That you feel you have to play balls you know I have a difficulty with. If winning is that important to you.”

He switched to my Kettler balls on the next game and I skunked him 7 – 0.

When we finished the match, I had a plan in my mind. I raced to my laptop and ordered more Kettler balls on Amazon. When my box of 60 balls came in, I’d remove the Stigas and hide them in the casita.

My husband approached me while I was ordering and looked over my shoulder.

“Are you going to order my balls, too?”

I shook my head no. Definitely not.

He tried to log onto Amazon on his computer. But he doesn’t know the password. And no, I didn’t give it to him when he asked.

“I called our daughter and she is ordering my ping pong balls,” he announced.

We played another match, and my Kettler balls were missing. Later that night I walked into my husband’s office and found a nice little pyramid of them resting against his keyboard.

Stiga ping pong ball
My husband’s preferred brand of ping pong ball.

Do you and your spouse get competitive in sports or games? What games or sports to do you play together?

Troubles in paradise

husband and wife
Back when we were young — pre kid days.

Have you ever been around a couple who isn’t getting along? We have close friends who are going through a difficult time. When the four of us are together, you’d never know anything is wrong. We laugh, enjoy each other’s company and reminisce when we became friends before kids.

But when I’m alone with my friend, she confides to me that things are not all rainbows and sunshine. It’s been this way more than a year at least and seems to be getting worse.

I brought it up to my husband and he said he’s hearing similar things from the husband.

He wants to ignore it and enjoy our friendship. Compartmentalize it. Somehow it seems fraudulent, but I’m going along. I’m not a making waves type.

I feel like if my girlfriend is complaining to me and it’s that bad, why doesn’t she do something? Get counseling or stand her ground? Or, are they stuck in ugly relationship patterns? I do complain a bit about my husband, too. It’s something many wives do. I’m going to stop that because I see how it looks from the receiving end. But this feels different to me.

We’ve had two or three couples we’ve hung out with who got divorced. One divorce ended a relationship with one of my husband’s childhood friends, because after coming to my husband for advice, my husband confided that the wife made a pass at me! She did. Then my husband’s friend made up with his wife and they blamed US for their problems. Eventually they got divorced.

The other couple wasn’t as close to us and I realized that when we talked to the husband, he’d use whatever we said to attack his wife. So I kept my distance and my mouth shut.

I guess our single friends are easier to be around.

How involved do you get with your friends’ relationships? Have you ever offered advice that has come back to bite? Do you give relationships advice or avoid it? Have you been around friends who aren’t getting along?

Can we agree to disagree?

“Every moment that you spend upset, despaired, anguished, angry or hurt because or the behavior of anybody else in your life is a moment when you’ve given up control of your life.”

That would be me today. I blew up at my dad. I lost control. It’s a moment I lost of my life.

My dad and I disagree about politics and I let him get under my skin. I called to tell him that my husband is getting his vaccine today. The conversation swiftly turned to politics because previously I had shared an article my son sent me. I thought the article was common sense and not that political.

A better memory of spending time with my dad.

My dad is 89 years old and we’ve argued over politics for decades. I try to stay away from it. But he loves to bring it up. I shouldn’t let him get me started. It’s when he calls an entire political party racist that I get aggravated. To me that is bigoted behavior. There are all sorts of people with differing views and opinions on all sides of every issue. I tend to see us as individuals and don’t believe in blanket statements about anyone.

The quote above was from a webinar I’m listening to called “Teaching Kids to Manage Their Thoughts.” It’s by David Benzel who is a sports parenting coach and has a nonprofit Growing Champions for Life.

The webinar had some enlightening facts and tips. Did you know that we have an average of 60,000 thoughts a day? Benzel also said that “In the absence of a positive thought, we’l focus on something negative.”

The big takeaway is to become an observer of our thoughts and not be controlled by them. If you have a negative thought, take a look at it. Question where it came from. Ask “does this thought bring me peace or inspire me? Does this thought cause me or others harm? Does this thought contribute to me being my best self?”

If not, tell your brain thanks for sharing, but no thanks!

Benzel says when you become aware of negative thoughts, they lose their power over you.

Wayne Dyer is quoted as saying “Change the way you look at things and the things you look at change.”

Not sure how all this helps me with my angry conversation with my dad. But, I can stop my negative thoughts right now and not entirely ruin my day. I don’t think I’m upset with his behavior, as much as with my own.

I think we are so divided nationally. Name calling and labeling people makes things so much worse.

Any thoughts about talking politics with people you disagree with? Is it even possible in today’s divided atmosphere?

Cancel culture and the right to freedom of speech

I wrote this more than six years ago. I can only say with the current “cancel culture” things have only gotten worse. The movement against freedom of speech and censorship has expanded from college campuses to social media and beyond.

 

Cherry blossoms at the Quad University of Washington

My alma mater. Springtime at the University of Washington, Seattle.

I worry about my kids and the world we are leaving them. I especially worry about how their ideals are so different than mine, when I was their age.

For example, I wanted to have a successful career. I was interested in getting a job. Eventually get married, buy a home and raise a family. Not that I wanted that at age 19 or even 22, but it was in the back of my mind.

Frosh pond at the University of Washington.

Another view from the UW.

I was a journalism major. My internships were at local newspapers and I spent one quarter at the state capital as a legislative reporter. I valued the written word. As an avid reader and writer for most of my entire life, I value freedom of speech and believe we are one of the few fortunate country’s in the world to enjoy this right. We have friends who immigrated from Eastern Europe. They told us how books were illegal in their country. They would smuggle photographs of each page to read and share with friends.

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Washington State Capitol with Mt. Rainier.

Washington State Capitol Dome with Mt. Rainier

I’m so surprised that our kids do not appreciate this right.

Did you hear that? Freedom of speech, which is our first amendment right, is not a favorable thing to a growing number of our college students. There was a recent Pew Research poll that tracked opinions about freedom of speech. Forty percent of students believe that our first amendment is outdated and that the government should have the right to censor our speech if it’s offensive to minorities.

“Amendment I

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the government for a redress of grievances.”

Read more here about the document called the Bill of Rights. 

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I was a young child in the 60s when protestors were taking over college campuses, bombing buildings and burning flags. They were protesting the War. They believed in freedom of speech.

You don’t have to agree with the words being said. You don’t even have to like it. You can hate it and find it offensive. But, don’t censor or silence it. It seems that our college campuses have become microcosms of group think where no dissenting point of view is allowed. If someone speaks out with a contrary opinion, they are shouted down, silenced and excommunicated.

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It’s very scary to me that the foundations of our country are not respected or valued by our youth. I’m hoping they outgrow this attitude as they enter the world, get jobs and raise their families.

Red Scarf Girl bookcover

A must read in today’s world.

There’s a book I read when my kids were in grade school called Red Scarf Girl by Ji-li Jiang. It’s a true story and eerily reminds me of what’s going on today with our college students.

“In 1966, Ji-li Jiang was twelve years old. An outstanding student and leader in her school, she had everything: brains, ability, the admiration of her peers – and a shining future in Chairman Mao’s New China. But all that changed with the advent of the Cultural Revolution, when intelligence became a crime and a wealthy family background invited persecution or worse.”

It’s a well written book and the story is one we should think about today.

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Here’s a story from 12/9/2015 that brings up some of the issues on campuses I’ve been reading about: Importance of Free Speech on Campus .

Here’s an opinion piece from the LA Times that addresses the issue of freedom of speech with numbers.

Here’s a couple blog posts I’ve written on the subject:

Is Freedom of Speech Dead On American Campuses

Are the Right to Party and the Right to Free Speech at Odds at UCSB?