Don’t Mistake My Calm For Apathy

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On matters of politics and religion, I am largely silent. This has earned me the ire of people of all stripes (usually over what they assume I think about something, since I am rarely explicit), but it has also allowed me to retain a diverse group of friends whose views are very unlike my own. My family has told me I am too neutral and do not take a strong enough stance on certain issues, and it is a valid criticism. I am aware of how my conduct might appear, and, for the most part, I accept that stigma as a byproduct of my choice. I am quiet, observant, and generally neutral in public discussions. I would rather moderate conflict than participate in it. I would rather advocate for the underrepresented point of view, even if it isn’t my own point of view, than reject what I don’t understand. I would rather unite sides than choose sides. I am not easily frightened by political happenings, natural disasters, or cultural shifts. I am cautious when judging the intentions of others, and tend to give the benefit of the doubt even to those whom society deems unforgivable. I hesitate to speculate about what tomorrow may bring. I don’t often speak in terms of absolutes or certainty. I try to surrender things I cannot control. And I care.

My conversational neutrality and general calm is often equated with a lack of concern. I am concerned. I am involved. I feel compelled to point out that it is possible to be both calm and passionate, both quiet and concerned. In a world of loud voices and strong opinions, I rarely feel the need to add my own, but, make no mistake: I have my own. Like you, I feel they are the best possible opinions I could have, otherwise I would change them. I could be more dogmatic, but I’m guessing you already have friends like that. We have no shortage of opinions in the world around us, but we don’t always have someone who will listen. My desire is to be that someone.

For my friends with strong voices and commanding spirits, I have deep respect. I believe the world benefits from you. Your activism, your energy–they are needed. To my friends with sensitive emotions who experience profound anxiety over things like presidential elections, religious mandates, or social injustice, I have deep respect. I believe the world benefits from you. I have no desire to patronize you by suggesting you calm down and react as I would react. My stance is not for everyone, and everyone need not understand or approve of it. I am a listener before a speaker. I am a learner before a teacher.

I have been around our country and in other countries, seen injustice, pain, racism, cruelty, love, freedom, beauty, and hope. These things move me, but my calm does not come from these things. My calm is internal. Come what may, you are likely to see me calm. I would like to think that my calm and neutrality betrays my values in its own way, and not a lack thereof, but if it appears to be apathy, please take a second glance. If I do not chant your slogan or decry your opposition, it is not because I am not with you; it is because I express myself in other ways.

Thank you, my friends, for respecting my calm when you believe the only right response is indignation. Thank you for respecting my curiosity when you feel like you’ve heard enough. Speak loud. Have your opinions. I am listening. I care.

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