Shut up. Yeah that's right, I'm talking to you. SHUT UP. You, with the masters in environmental science. And you, with the big cushy job on Wall Street. And you, with no job and no house and no education. And you, with every luxury in life that you could have ever wanted. Please for the love of all that is good, stop talking.
Stop talking about how much you hate Donald Trump, or how Obama destroyed the economy. Stop talking about how your rights are breached based on someone else's decisions on their body, or how life doesn't start at conception. Stop talking about who does and does not have the right to marry, and stop telling everyone who calls themself a Christian that they are inherently hateful. Stop talking about whether you're conservative or liberal and start talking about how your kids doing, or how your mom is recovering from her back surgery.
Start talking about sports, and literature, and music, and art, and life, and death, and beauty, and pain, and suffering, and joy, and start actually getting to know the humans around you for what they are-people. Beautiful, wonderful, intelligent, passionate people who you're about to miss out on because all you can do is focus on that "I'm With Her" sticker on their car.
Don't get me wrong, educate yourself. Be awake and aware and even involved in the world around you. Grab your soapbox and shout your beliefs until your voice is gone, but not at your grandfather over Thanksgiving dinner. Go and vote your conscience and pray and pray that your candidate got elected, but don't damn those who voted for the other. Go and have coffee with your Muslim friend and ask them about their belief in God, but don't tell them that they're going to hell when *ahem* nobody asked.
Politics are so important, and the environment is so important, and human rights are so important, but in all our passion, and desire for change, and yeah yeah yeah "good intentions," we've forgotten the most important thing. People. We've stopped seeing our neighborhoods as communities and started seeing them as grass propaganda. We've stopped seeing family dinner as a time to catch up on each other's lives and started seeing them as the time to convince your dad to see your side when it comes to immigration (when, news-flash honey, he never will). We've stopped seeing our co-workers as well, co-workers, and started seeing them as conservative or moderate or liberal. There are places to speak your mind and leave your mark and you absolutely should. In fact, you're wrong not to. But those places are in voting boxes, and courtrooms, and political rallies. And there are appropriate places to sit down and have respectful, open-minded conversations with people of different beliefs, and I encourage those conversations. But those places are at prescheduled forums, organized debates, and yes-sometimes a facebook post (just maybe not every facebook post).
The fact of the matter is this, we have forgotten how to just live our lives and we can no longer recognize that eating lunch with a Trump supporter is not the same thing as lobbying congress-unless somehow you get to eat lunch with Paul Ryan then, lobby away! The world is a dark and scary place and we are allowed to be outraged and terrified. Our passion and emotion is not the issue. It is right to call people out for acting immorally or to seek to rectify injustice. But if the man checking you out at TJ Maxx is gay, and you believe that homosexuality is a sin-well sorry, but there's no injustice here. Last time I checked he was asking you to sign the receipt, not his marriage certificate so I guess it really doesn't matter if he's gay or not, now does it? In that very moment, he is a person doing you a service, and you are a person giving him business. The relationship here is symbiotic so shut up and just be nice. If the guy mowing the lawn next to yours happens to also have a squad car in the driveway, cool. Awesome. Mow the lawn, and give him a wave, and maybe even invite him in for a beer, because right now he's not a police officer and you're not the leader of a police brutality rally. You're neighbors. And you might even be best friends. That is, if for two seconds you could just shut and be nice.
photographer: Meghan Smith