Julie Seedorf: Is silence these days in America golden?

Published 9:22 am Monday, June 20, 2016

There are many people out there who are silent. They don’t voice their opinion for various reasons. I fear, in spite of how mouthy I am about many subjects, I stay silent about many of the somethings underneath the nothings which I espouse to write about. I like to keep things “Minnesota nice.”

It was a history-making few weeks for good reasons and sad and unbelievable reasons.

We have the first woman possibly on the ballot for president of the United States. Whether people like or vote for Hillary Clinton, it doesn’t change the fact that history is made. I remember growing up in an America where a woman being on the ballot for president for a political party was as believable as the Jetson cartoon. Thirty years ago, living in a different community than I live in now, I was asked to run for church council. Before I accepted, I was told to not expect to be elected because they had never had a woman serve on their council. Just putting me on the ballot was a start — and no, I didn’t get elected.

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I have a letter written from one relative to another where a dad states that it was a waste of time and money for his daughter even contemplating attending college because she would just get married and have kids anyway. I know the discrimination in many workplaces when it comes to wages between men and women. So yes, I applaud the fact we have a woman on the ballot for president.

Yet as we go forward in one way, we take two steps back when it comes to women and rape and the thought processes that may or may not define rape. When a woman can be raped and beaten and yet her rapist gets a slap on the wrist then we are back in the dark ages.

I was already contemplating writing about this when the mass shooting in Orlando occurred. Watching the news feeds and talking to people, there seem to be two trains of thought on this,  and that is we must do something about guns and humanity or — this is sad, but you can’t take my guns away.

One of my friends posted these words: “We as a country are so lost.” They didn’t have a solution; they were lamenting the responses they were seeing on the internet and the news.

I have a friend who believes differently about the election than I do. Instead of bullying, sarcastic comments and massacring the other candidate, they calmly had a conversation with me about their viewpoint on the candidate of their choice. We had a one hour conversation and I listened, something I haven’t been doing when someone rips apart, bullies and uses aggression to get their viewpoint across to others. I tune them out and apparently others do, too, judging on the number of my Facebook friends who have blocked and unfriended friends and relatives because of aggression. These people aren’t blocked because of their viewpoint, they are blocked because of the way their viewpoint is presented.

I won’t give you my opinion on guns, but I will say this: On the same weekend the shooting in Orlando occurred, there were 42 wounded and seven killed in the city of Chicago by gun violence. That is one city. In my own small-town southern Minnesota area 60 miles north of where I live there were four people shot at a party in the middle of the country. These are two instances besides the mass shooting in Orlando. Newsweek came out with a report that the United States has the highest homicide–by–firearm rate among the world’s most developed nations. According to statistics presented by the New York Times, gun homicides kill as many people as car crashes, not counting van, truck, motorcycle or bus accidents. Yet we argue that we have the right to own those guns to protect ourselves. Who protected those who died because of gun violence. Where are their rights? Their voices seem lost in the debate.

If I have Alzheimer’s or dementia or other medical conditions, I would not be allowed to operate a motor vehicle because I would be a danger to others. The same could be said for issuing guns to people without a mental health evaluation. It might be a silly thought coming from — gasp — a woman, but I just thought I would throw that out there to create a little more controversy.

Many of those who remain silent do so because they do not want to be bullied. They want their opinion respected and they want to have an actual factual and sensible dialogue with people who present their opinion in a way that can have merit.

To be honest, I believe we live in a society right now where it won’t matter who is elected, the verbal carnage that massacres their character ­ — Republican, Democrat or whatever — will continue. Neither side can fix this mess divided. Because of social media, we are on a roll, giving a voice to those who shout the loudest, complain the most without solutions and steamroll over others’ opinions. And we do it so well.

We are divided loudly about women’s rights. We are divided loudly about gun control. We are divided loudly about who has the right to live in the United States. We have lost our compass because of this division and lack of respect for each other’s opinions.

So some of us remain silent and we fall victim to those loud voices that beat our opinions down, that bully, cut down and ravage another’s opinions. And some become transformed by those voices and began to spew hate right along with those who are shouting hate. And they spread the terror of half truths that make us fear what we don’t know. I feel they are just as dangerous as those outside sources that terrorize our country. And it will bring us down.

But what do I know? I am an old and weary woman without the education of those in power, and I am sad to see the change in the country I know. Because I remember what it was, and I know what it can be.

This quote from Quotes Gram and Melanie McMillan seem to fit those out there who are silent: Silence doesn’t always mean “Yes.” Sometimes it means, “I’m tired of explaining to people who don’t even care to understand.”


Wells resident Julie Seedorf’s column appears every Monday. Send email to her at hermionyvidaliabooks@gmail.com.