If we don’t believe in free expression for people we despise, we don’t believe in it at all.” Noam Chomsky

I typically see myself as a fair-minded person, someone open to the opinions of others. I enjoy engaging in lively discussions and I love debate that either solidifies my point of view or gives me other ways to look at an issue. At least this is what I tell myself. Then I hear some of the things I say and in particular the way I say them. Man, am I opinionated. 

It’s not as though this comes as a surprise to me. I’ve been teased about it my entire life. Friends, teachers, professors, and colleagues in the past have made provocative statements just to see how I will react. Depending on the topic, I have been known to erupt into a rant of biblical proportions.  

But I thought I’d softened with age. Nope.

Last week at our annual writers retreat, a time of quiet reflection and writing, I shared (and I’m being overly generous with the use of this word) my views about American foreign policy, the refugee crisis in Greece, EU policy (or lack there of) on the refugee crisis, and the Canadian governments handling of everything from assisted suicide legislation to the downing of flight PS752, to name a few. Granted this was over lunch, dinner and other breaks, not during our writing times. But still, I have to ask myself why I feel so compelled to tell everyone what I think. 

These issues and so many others bother me. I think about them like I do everything else: obsessively. And I want to make a difference. As I write this, I realize this is why I do it. I can’t always do anything concrete about the issues I worry about, so I suppose I think talking about it will help. It might raise awareness. Perhaps the person I’m talking with will come up with a plan to do something. I don’t know. 

The only thing I do know: I want to do good while I’m around. Listening rather than talking might be a place to start.

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