Last Updated on June 4, 2020 by Saurabh Sethi, MD, MPH
A friend of ours just posted an image of President Trump sitting in the Oval Office with Jesus standing behind him… Never mind that, not surprisingly, Jesus is depicted in the typical Westernized way: as a white guy with shoulder-length brown, hipster hair and a mustache. What’s more important is that my husband and I have subsequently watched the woman who posted the image get attacked, somewhat mildly compared to other attacks I’ve seen online, but attacked, nonetheless.
That image, her response, and how swiftly she was rebuked, has me feeling all the feels today. Everything happening politically has been weighing heavily on my heart. I finally feel as though my perspective might be relevant, albeit mostly personal, but as it relates to The STI Project as well….
This will come as no surprise, but from a strictly personal standpoint, I am not a huge fan of the image that was posted, our current leadership, or the political decisions being made in Washington DC over the past weeks and months. It often enrages me, because I feel helpless, and I plan to activate by voting in elections other than the presidential race and getting more involved politically. I see myself at fault for this mess – I’m to blame for my complacency and some of the privilege I enjoy. But that’s not the point.
If you gather anything from the rest of what I’m about to say, gather this: hatred, name calling, bullying, and judgments across any space on any platform is NOT ok now, and it will never be ok in my home, in my business, on The STI Project, or in any other format where I’m present.
I believe in your right to the freedom of speech, but I do not have to participate in it, and that doesn’t make me a coward, wishy-washy, or whatever else you want to add to that list.
Folks Sharing Their Perspectives Thoughtfully
Back to our friend – she posted the aforementioned image, and despite all of the rebuttals and poignant questioning she received, she maintained her composure, backed up her opinion with scripture, and she remained respectful and loving throughout her communication. Arguments using scripture can be a slippery slope, of course, because some people twist it to suit their narrative, but our friend did so thoughtfully and without malice. Her post got reported to Facebook and then deleted several times, but she reposted it and continued to answer questions with poise.
I am impressed by her approach, and I think it speaks volumes to what is possible if we stop projecting our anger and hate onto everyone else.
Attacking Opposing Politics and Infighting
I have seen many posts attacking the other side, along with a fair share of infighting, and none of it accomplishes anything productive. Calling someone names is neither educated, thoughtful, or respectful, and it does nothing to further your cause.
There are liberals saying that those who don’t protest, march, or otherwise loudly voice their opinions are failing at life. And while I’ll bear some of the responsibility of where our country is currently, because I know I could have done more, I am not failing at life or failing at being a liberal, or even failing at being a decent human being, for that matter. But that’s also not the point.
I believe there are many ways to activate and to become an advocate, and dictating that those who do not do things exactly as you would have them do makes you no better than the bigots, hypocrites, and bullies. So, stop it.
Do you instead. Do you fabulously, unapologetically, and with all of your energy and intention. The rest will follow.
Being an Activist Takes Many Forms, and The STI Project is Just One Way to Advocate for Others
At The STI Project, we tell all of our readers that they don’t have to “come out” in a dramatic way, like I did, to advocate for themselves or to be an activist. Sometimes, being an activist is having patient, educated, respectful, and thoughtful conversations with loved ones at home. Sometimes, being an activist is wearing a giant vagina on your head and marching for women’s rights. Activism takes make shapes and forms, and only you know what kind of activism fits you best.
You do you, and if that doesn’t include name-calling or bashing someone else, then I’m all for it, and you have a supporter in me.
There’s a menagerie of folks who can’t have thoughtful, educated, respectful discussions with one another when it comes to this stuff, so expend your resources working with those who can. And then there’s some people you simply must delete and get out of your life, because they were just acquaintances anyways, and/or they are hateful. But don’t become one of them.
As hard as it is, I believe you are bigger than that. Completely trashing a best friend or a close family member, because they disagree? Nonsense. I don’t think you are required to keep all friends and family in your life forever, but I ask you to consider if you’re deleting them as a knee-jerk reaction to the pain, animosity, frustration, and helplessness you’re feeling or because they are truly toxic. If they latter is true, then delete, delete, delete, baby! But if not, all of this can be done differently.
Caveat: in no way am I the bastion of always handling disagreements perfectly and with the highest decorum.
I Love and Support People on Both Sides
Does some of the opposing view, baffle me entirely? Yes. Am I frustrated beyond eloquent words at the things I’m seeing done and the actions being taken by the other party? Most definitely. But as long as there are folks I love on both sides, I’m going to do my best to refrain from making broad-swooping statements about entire groups of people, and I’m going to take each person and situation as they come to me.
I’m also going to activate! I’m going to do more, because I could have done more. But that more doesn’t include generalizing giant swaths of people. I hope you stop doing that too.
The STI Project is [mostly] Bi-Partisan
At The STI Project, we are bipartisan for a reason.
I mean, sure, if you do any googling and look me up specifically, it’s not a big secret that I’m usually more of a liberal person. But not all of my beliefs are liberally inclined. Even though I tend to err on the side of liberal ideas, I respect the thoughtful, educated opinions of others.
Are you noticing a trend here?
There’s a way in which to have opposing views and to share them productively, and then to expand on them and activate, to become an advocate. Or you can continue calling people names and spewing hate… You choose.
As much as I understand where you’re coming from, from an emotional standpoint, because I have frustration in my heart too, I want to conscientiously choose an alternative approach.
And especially on The STI Project, we can’t afford to do be one-sided. Actually, I do my best to be as ‘Switzerland’ about everything as possible. That sometimes upsets people, but I am in the business of helping people – as many people as possible – and I must put that first.
Even so, sometimes I share and reference the more diametric opinions of others when I think they’re done in a well-supported and thoughtful way. Other times, I am just not sure it serves the greater purpose, so I choose to wait on it and think about it a bit. It doesn’t mean I’m your opponent; it means I’m doing my best to think critically and to consider all angles.
Welcoming Differing Viewpoints
Regardless, I will always welcome the viewpoints of those that might differ from my own. Because all kinds of people contract STIs/STDs, we want to make sure our space is a safe, educational resource for everyone – no matter how you voted or whatever else you believe.
From a practical perspective, we’re likely to support a lot of liberal platforms, because they often come equipped with provisions that advocate for inclusive, comprehensive sexual health. However, that does not limit the organizations we will work alongside.
We will always support the work of organizations and individuals who advocate for inclusive, comprehensive sexual health – education, prevention, and treatment. If that happens to include your more conservative organization, or you as an individual, then that’s fabulous, and I think there’s a space for you here. Your voice is as important as mine, because you will appeal to those who come from a more conservative background and who find themselves recently diagnosed with an STI/STD. So, welcome! Please reach out to me, as I’d be happy to work with you.
The short of the long is that, at The STI Project, we are always happy to exchange dialogue and respectful, educated, and thoughtful ideas with any one from any walk of life or corner of the world.
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Did this post upset you? Have you experienced similar hate toward your infection or your life choices? Do you think these actions are caused by stigma? Share your thoughts in the comments section below!