speak up. someone might thank you for it.

(Image from shoeboxblog.com)

We’ve all gotten them: those forwarded e-mails from a relative, friend, or coworker that make you cringe at the thought that (a) someone wrote this and (b) other people are buying it, enough to send it around. Every single one of those that I’ve gotten until now, I’ve glanced at and discarded as a waste of time. But the other day, I got this email from a relative, and was struck by a few of the lines in it:

Isn’t it funny how you can send a thousand jokes through e-mail and they spread like wildfire, but when you start sending messages regarding the Lord, people think twice
about sharing?

Isn’t it funny how when you go to forward this message, you will not send it to many on your address list because you’re not sure what they believe, or what they will think
of you for sending it to them[?]

Isn’t it funny how I can be more worried about what other people think of me than what God thinks of me[?]”

While I do not believe in God in the sense that he is presented in this e-mail, the idea behind this section resonated with me. It’s about being proud of your beliefs, proud enough to broadcast them to other people. So, in that spirit, I responded. This was not a response I took lightly, because family relationships are delicate beasts, and people who send out e-mails like that aren’t usually looking for reasoned discussion of the issues. But at the same time, I didn’t feel comfortable allowing that e-mail to go unchallenged. So I did some research, provided sources to back up my rebuttal, and sent it off to the relative who had originally sent it, and all of my relatives who had received it.

I expected that to be the end of it. I didn’t imagine that this e-mail was going to start a big intra-family dialogue, that we were all going to come together and hash out our political differences until we were all comfortable with everyone else’s. But I was surprised to receive multiple notes from some of the other relatives who had received both the original and my response, all in support of or thanking me for my speaking out.

I don’t anticipate that I’ll be included on any forwarded e-mails in the future, but I do think that when I am, I will be more inclined to respond to those that are misleading or dishonest. For one thing, failing to refute misleading claims just allows those claims to propagate, and misinformation is a huge problem in the American political process these days. But what’s more, you might find that you’re not just speaking for yourself.

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