To say that I am a loud, opinionated, vocal activist is a vast understatement. My social media, blog posts and big mouth get me in more trouble than I care to divulge. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes I get it very wrong. But the only way I ever figure that out is by allowing other people’s thoughts and opinions to filter through my feeds as well as allowing them to penetrate my own mind.
My friends often comment on how I handle my social media. “Stacie, how do you let so many conservatives stay on your page.” “Why don’t you just block these trolls.” “I don’t know how you handle people constantly trying to prove you wrong.”
Well, first, I have rules on my social media. Everyone is welcome as long as they are respectful of each other. And by that I simply mean, no name calling and no personal insults. Other than that, it is open to full discussion and debate.
Why? Well, how is anyone going to learn anything if they only hear one side? I personally want to learn as much as I can. I’ve lived long enough on this planet to know that as much as I would like to think I know it all, I don’t; not by any means. I’m wrong all the time.
The thing people miss though when they make those comments to me are the comments and notes that say, “You are proof that not all liberals are the same.” “I appreciate that you respectfully let me have my opinion.” And my favorite, “I didn’t know (Insert whatever thing here) I learned something today.”
Now my opinionated posts might not change anyone’s mind on that specific topic, but having open dialogue breaks down barriers, it opens minds and hearts and it starts a conversation. I have a 100% better chance of reaching someone who I am having a conversation with than I do someone I blocked because they don’t agree with me. If one person learns one tiny thing that might lead to bigger change down the line, then for me it’s worth it.
Do I get frustrated? Do I get angry? Do I get my feelings hurt? Hell yes I do. And sometimes I do hit that block button. But I hate it when it comes to that. It means that I failed. I failed in having patience, I failed in making someone feel safe, I failed in trying to hear them and I failed in them being able to hear me. No one wins. No one learns anything. No one becomes a better more well-rounded person.
The current political climate is as divisive as I have ever seen it. Everyone seems to be in this modus operandi of “you’re either with us or against us”, and I suppose that’s fine if you want to live in an echo chamber. I personally would rather bring more people over to “our” side than I would draw a line in the sand and say, “You aren’t welcome here.”
How are we ever going to change the world if the only people allowed in are the ones who are already there? You can’t. It’s impossible. That is the danger of living in an echo chamber.
You want to end misogyny and sexism? You better invite a few misogynists and sexists to the table. You want to end racism? You’re going to need to have open conversations with a lot of racists. You want want to end injustice for the LGBTQ community? You better be willing to open your heart to some homophobes. Because you aren’t going to do any of those things by only engaging people who feel the same way you do.
What does work is leading by example, being open to other ideas and opinions, listening to people, asking them why they feel or think the way that they do and then engaging them in a conversation about it.
That is the hard job; listening. Not sitting there in your head getting your own next comment ready, but really listening to them so that you can formulate a thoughtful response to what they are saying.
Trying to change someone’s mind is not about you. It is about them.
You can’t just shove your opinions down someones throat and expect them to swallow. You have to start with small bites. Just a taste, let it sink it, let them mull it around for a second so that they can figure it out for themselves.
Humans by nature are drawn to things, thoughts and ideas that make them feel good about themselves. Take one psychology class and you will learn that. No one feels good about themselves if the other person is telling them what a heaping pile of poop they are. All that does is push them farther away, makes them dig deeper into their already formed opinions and leaves them thinking that you are actually the heaping pile of poop.
Once again, no one wins. No one learns anything. No one becomes a better, more loving, well rounded person.
I don’t know about you, but I truly do want to change the world. I want real diversity, I want real inclusivity and I want true equality. That ain’t gonna happen if I make my community smaller rather than larger. That ain’t gonna happen if I only have conversations with people who think and feel exactly how I do. And that sure as hell ain’t gonna happen if my way is the only way or my standpoint is you’re either with me or against me. And that ain’t real diversity, inclusivity or equality anyway. That’s just an echo chamber.
Maybe I’m just looking at the world through rose colored glasses, but I honestly believe that love trumps hate. Every single time.
Stacie Huckeba is a photographer, film-maker and writer living in Nashville TN. Her work can be seen in USA Today, Rolling Stone, Wall Street Journal, Vintage Guitar, Country Weekly, Sound on Sound, The Huffington Post, TNN, CMT. Her clients include The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Foundation, The Americana Music Association, International Bluegrass Museum and Hall of Fame, Sony Music Group, Yep Rock Music Group, Redeye Distribution, Gold Mountain Entertainment, Miktek Audio, CBRE, SOHO Myriad and more.