For as long as I can remember, there have been two things you should never talk about. Religion and politics. It’s understandable why these two topics are avoided. Often, when a conversation about religion or politics is started, people get angry and confrontational. In theory, yes, it may not be the most appropriate dining table conversation, especially when you don’t know other’s views and beliefs. I believe however, that we, as the new generation, need to grow beyond the “p word”. The longer we sit and deem these topics as forbidden, the more we are adding to the problem. I once had a great teacher of mine tell me, “I don’t think people avoid the topic of religion and politics to be cordial. I think they avoid it because they’re scared they might learn something new.”
Although I am only 15, I have seen politics and religion tear the world apart. Terrorism, riots, wars…most of these come from altercations having to do with political and religious violence. In the last four years, since the presidency of Donald Trump, I have witnessed some of the biggest political unrest in America. It could possibly be that I wasn’t old enough to recognize it in the past, but the divide I see between the two parties today is unimaginable. As teens, we are the next group of voters. It’s high time that we end the political war. Of course, you can never really terminate it, for everyone will always have their opinion, and everyone will always think they’re right. But, we can take the small steps that one day will make the difference.
The way I see it, until recently, most of my peers adopted the political and religious stance of their parents. When you’re young and impressionable, hearing your parents ridicule another political party or calling other religions derogatory names allows you to think it’s ok, and it’s what’s right. In fact, many carry the same ideas onto adulthood. As we all grow older though, I see more and more teens adopting their own views. In light of recent events, such as the Black Lives Matter movement, Famine in Yemen, and the Beirut Explosion, teens are beginning to question why these events are even political in the first place, and taking sides to support what they believe is right.
Although, it’s always good to research and form your own opinions, what we must work to amend is the fighting. To do this, instead of keeping your mouth shut or breezing past topics relating to politics and religion, speak up. This doesn’t mean yelling and screaming and trying to convince the other person that you are right, because trust me, you’re not going to change their mind. But, try surprising them. Take the time to listen, try to understand their point of view. Sometimes people have different beliefs than you because of a variety of things (income, race, experiences, how they’ve been raised). Remember, that if you were in their situation, you might have had the very same way of thinking. So, always be looking to learn more from someone else. Have an intelligent conversation with them. Understand that it is not only okay, but vital to say “I never looked at it that way, thank you for shifting my perspective”. In the end, you will look a lot more insightful than if you argued with the other person, using nasty names and language. We can be the generation to end the fighting, if only we can get over our ego.
To add on to the topic of politics, we have another fire-fueled issue to discuss– Religion. Growing up in an international, public school community, I have been exposed to an abundance of different religions. I have best friends who are Christian, Catholic, Muslim, Hindu, Atheist, and more. A persons religion never really bothered me, in fact, I am intrigued by different religions and cultures and love to learn more about them. Unlike politics, I don’t think religion is something people should have an opinion on. Naturally, everyone will have their own faith and I guess that is your “opinion”. Yet, what is currently wrong, is that people believe that “_____ religion is bad”. I see this all the time. As an Indian person raised under Hinduism, I recognize the internalized (or externalized) hatred for other religions (especially Islam). This baffles me. My biggest hope is that as a younger generation, we end this. Instead of hating an entire religion based on a few people’s bad deeds, learn to love each and every one. People from all different religions have carried out despicable actions, however, we have to be able to look past the effects of a few. Like politics, you may not agree with them, but look at it from another person’s point of view for a moment. You were raised under a certain religion and so were they. Compare and contrast the two religions and see how it plays a part in each of your cultures. Each individual is different and that’s the beautiful thing about people…allow yourself to realize and accept that, and you contribute to making the world a better place.
The “p word” is a thing of past times. It is used to avoid uncomfortable conversations and keep things affable. While there is a time and a place where it is inappropriate to discuss politics/religion, we need to stop making it another taboo to add to our long list. Open your mind and heart, and stop tiptoeing around the subject. You are strong and smart and capable of having a sophisticated discussion, even if you are only a teenager.
“You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view… Until you climb inside of his skin and walk around in it.” -Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird
Featured image by @markusspiske on unsplash.com