Getting Caught Up in Public Opinion

Netflix has many terrific shows lately. One of them is “The Crown” which is about Queen Elizabeth. A scene in the first season really struck me. It is a dialogue between Queen Elizabeth and Queen Mary. Here is a condensed version:

Queen Elizabeth (QE): “It doesn’t feel right as head of state to do nothing.”  . . .

Queen Mary (QM): “To do nothing is the hardest job of all. . . to be impartial is not natural, not human. People will always want you to smile or agree or frown and the minute you do you will have declared a position. A point of view and that is the one thing as sovereign that you are not entitled to do. The less you do, the less you say, or agree or smile”

QE: “or think or feel or breathe or exist”

QM: “the better.”

QE: “Well that is fine for the sovereign, but where does that leave me?”

This scene, and much of the first two seasons, shows the conflict between a young woman learning who she is and to use her voice, versus the rules, regulations, and restrictions of her role. When I first saw this scene, my passion for empowerment came out and my reaction was that Queen Elizabeth has a right to her emotions. She has a right to her thoughts. She has a right to express herself. And she does. But I think there is another message in here.

This fictional conversation is also about the public’s desire to have her mirror their emotions and how difficult it is to be the impartial adult who does not get caught up in the unbridled emotions of the public. If you turn on the news or open Facebook, it is hard not to be consumed by the public’s desire to have you mirror their emotions, to agree with their point of view. Daily we are inundated by posts, memes, and commentaries designed, consciously or unconsciously, to inspire us to take a side. But is that the best choice?

I hardly post anything about politics or “like” others’ posts because my comments and reactions are often misunderstood. I tend to see the gray, but people want me to choose a black or white stance on issues. Recently I had this happen on a personal not political topic. Two individuals I know are having a major conflict. I spoke to one individual with the hope of possibly deflating the issue. I thought we were making progress but at the end of the call he said, “I am glad you and my other friends agree with me.” I had not stated support for either “side” but he needed me to choose sides, specifically his side. When I did not, he stopped speaking to me. Being in the impartial gray is difficult for people to accept. In this case impartiality was the best choice, as neither side was 100% right and the negative energy around this conflict was something I did not want or need to take on.

The other reason I try to stay impartial is because once I state my opinion many people then label me as this or that.  It is sad how many times people I know or meet assume my political affiliation and because of this, I “must” believe this or that. Once impartiality is removed, we can become labeled – and therefore restricted and powerless. We become a hostage of the expectations of a specific label. Our opinions, or assumptions about our opinions, make us the other. Suddenly there is an us-versus-them conflict that can lead to larger problems. We lose our voice to the assumed beliefs of a specific group.

Throughout your day, notice the conversations you have. Whether politics or the drive into work, do people expect you to choose and state an opinion? What happens if you do? Do you feel trapped or labeled afterwards? If you stay impartial and objective, how do others react? What does being objective and impartial give you? You have a right to your thoughts, opinions, and emotions, but explore how staying in the impartial gray can provide you with power and peace.

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