By LaKeshia Myers
My former track coach used to tell us, “opinions are like noses—everybody has one; the only time yours matters is when it can be backed up by fact.” His point in saying this was to remind us to be wary of emotional reactions as emotion can cloud one’s judgment. I was reminded of this lesson within the past week as there was fervent discussion online from individuals with regard to my support of a measure that would raise the retirement age for civil servants.
It was interesting for me that within the course of expressing their disagreement labels such as “anti-worker”, “centrist” and “illogical” were hurled. It was also suggested that I was even supportive of the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC)—a conservative action group known for promoting controversial policies. None of the above are actually true. But truth was unnecessary; what was necessary was individuals having an outlet—better yet a target—with which to troll their anger. I acknowledge the heightened political atmosphere in which we live; what I detest is the absence of cordiality. My mother calls this “disagreeing without being disagreeable;” I liken this to an abhorrence of independent thought.
We are all members of tribes. Whether it is a political party, church, or labor union—in my experience inclusion often dictates that one’s own personal thoughts—no matter the intent or the factual evidence—will be questioned and sometimes quelled. The silencing of dissenters is dangerous. When we only engage in homogenous “group think” we begin to see things through one lens and most often that lens is singular and does not represent a diverse point of view. Psychologist Irving Janis describes group think as faulty decision making that can occur in groups as a result of forces that bring a group together (Janis, 1972).
This was the case in my engagements over the past week. The trauma of past legislation (Act 10) served as the catalyst for the attack on my differing opinion. However, I assuage that one perspective, perpetuated by one group, with one lens. That is not representative of all people. I don’t mind being in the line of fire. I was elected to be representative of all of my constituents and they expect me to weigh the pros and cons of each piece of legislation. They also expect me to make decisions based on fact and not emotion.