Three little words

No, not those three little words. But these pack just as big a wallop.

Lots of people believe “I love you” is the most powerful phrase in the English language, especially for the person saying it. It can open hearts and minds, and alter the way in which we view the world.

A close second has to be “I don’t care.” This might not inspire a holiday, but if you truly mean it, the phrase can set you free.

I get my fair share of hate mail and nasty comments. Most don’t come from conservatives, but from fellow liberals. Whether raging against my stance on cosmetic surgery or the death penalty (I’m a big fan of both), they are ready to burn me at the stake whenever I rub them the wrong way.

Now it seems they have another log to put on that fire.

I recently took a full-time position organizing parent and teacher outreach for StudentsFirst. This dream job has angered friends and fellow activists who are fundamentally at odds with education reform. They have voiced extreme discontent and a few have started giving me the cold shoulder.

Taking a nuanced view of the world is risky. Most people want to force the rest of us into convenient boxes — liberals must support unions and Pearl Jam, conservatives eat meat and small children, libertarians enjoy drugs and automatic weapons.

Narrow minds don’t know what to do with activists who think outside those boxes. I liken their reaction to the “anger” stage of grief and figure it’ll take some time, but eventually we’ll get to “acceptance.”

That these dissenters truly believe I care about their disapproval and might actually resign if they pressure or ignore me long enough is amusing. I have engaged them in conversation and listened to their complaints. I’ve contemplated their point of view.

Then I’ve come to a conclusion, and don’t care about disapprovals — it’s my life, after all.

Back in college, I worked as a counselor at Tampa Woman’s Health Center. Among other services, women came to see us for safe and legal abortions. I held their hands and dried their tears several days a week for almost two years.

This went against my mother’s pro-life beliefs. I was told to quit.

I moved out instead.

Just a few years ago, I made a career and location change that I knew would end a 20-year friendship.

I made the change anyway.

If I’m going to go against the wishes of two of the most important people in my life, because I value my conscience more than their company, the idea I give a shit what you think is laughable.

When hard-core liberals turn into hard-core evangelicals, I find myself trying to understand their point of view even if I don’t share it.

This sentiment is not always reciprocated.

I’ve been proselytized to for so many years, on so many different levels, I recognize all the talking points. These folks start off kind and understanding. They’re going to “work with me.” They get frustrated and angry when I’m not so easily persuaded, when I have questions and concerns. Eventually, when I refuse to convert, I’m sentenced to hell.

Second verse, same as the first.

Tactics they condemn in others are often employed by frustrated liberals with glee and abandon. In the end, they shrug their shoulders and declare me a lost cause.

“You’re too closed-minded to think differently.”

“Oh?” I giggle. “Are you describing me or you?”

There is a price to pay when we don’t follow along with the conventional wisdom of our chosen party, religion, or circle of friends. Alienation is probably the least of the available punishments, so I’m not complaining.

I seek the counsel of those I admire and respect. My husband, mother, and two children mean more to me than the rest of the planet put altogether. However, in the end, I do my own thing. Each and every time.

kind of independence is admirable only when the admirer agrees with my viewpoint. When those viewpoints clash, all of a sudden I’m not so great.

Oh well.

Like I care.

Catherine Durkin Robinson can be found online at www.outinleftfield.com and dailyloafblog.com.

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