Is silence still golden?

If you don’t stand for something, you’ll fall for anything. At least, this is what we’re told. Over the course of life, we’ve all learned at some point that our society values the outspoken. Those who raise their voices above the rest are assumed to be the ones who have the greatest interest in an issue. But is this always true? What about the voices who know their minds but choose to keep it to themselves? Is there honor in silence?

I will cut to the core of the issue; I am talking about politics. Before I go further, let me clarify that I am not someone who takes much interest in politics. Before I began this opinions editorial, I had a very limited concept of what an opinions editor could write. My first thoughts led me in the direction of politics, and my inner pacifist instinctively cringed. Why? Not because the world of politics is vast and intricately intertwined, not because I tend to dislike most political leaders, not even for the simple reason that political conversations inevitably unleash the vengeful politician within normally civil friends and family. No, I cringed away from the thought of writing on politics simply because I do not have a strong enough opinion in the political realm. In fact, I can probably write a better argument defending my reservations than I could in favor of some hot-button topic.

What do I mean to say by this blasphemy? Do I sway easily from one set of beliefs to another depending on whether I am with my liberal or conservative friends? No, but I do tend to hold silence when the conversation turns to a certain upcoming election, abortion or the separation of church and state. Is this some part of my plot to freeze out my friends’ zealous fires with the silent treatment? Au contraire, I admire their involvement with the world around us. But I hesitate to answer even the most rousing arguments because I am all too often painfully aware of my ignorance on the issue at hand, and I prefer to read up on my facts before “bringing a knife to a gunfight,” so to speak.

My political stance is one of reserve. I have formed opinions on the issues that matter the most to me, and I have the self-awareness to note that I generally choose my stance based on my upbringing and my religious beliefs. Because these sometimes conflict with my most objective observations of the world around me, I find it hard to express what I feel are very flawed and inconclusive supporting arguments with any intention of persuading another person that I am right. I am still trying to figure out my own opinion, so I wouldn’t exactly call myself qualified to help anyone else decide what to think.

But do I settle for the first well-made argument if I haven’t yet formed my own conclusions? This would be a simple enough solution. After all, isn’t this the very purpose of slogan banners and commercials for local elections? Voters may not know much about a candidate or issue, so they will be more likely to choose the side about which they have heard the most. Sure, that makes sense from a marketing standpoint, but good marketing won’t solve the problems our world faces. No, we can’t fall for the trap of loyalty easily won and easily lost.

College is supposed to be the time of our lives when we figure out what we want to do, what paths we want to take and who we wish to become. Politics can be a part of that. Some are deeply interested in this vast and delicate political realm. They feel the need to dig deeper into the most prominent issues our society faces, and they do it with skill. They balance out the people like myself, those who simply cannot fully invest themselves in the vast realm of politics.

I have come to accept that I neither have nor do I need to have an answer to every question. This is OK, but do not settle for the first good argument you hear. Do your own investigating, and choose for yourself what to believe. After all, how can you speak your mind if you do not first know it?