Talking politics can be tough. You may feel like you don’t have enough information to speak up. Maybe you don’t have enough time between work, family, sports, and yet another potluck of some variety. Or you may feel like it’s nothing but bitter old people sniping at each other for some sliver of what they think is power.

I’m not here to cast blame or shame on anyone that would rather avoid political discussions. I’ve been in those shoes and understand that view. For far too many years, I wanted nothing to do with our local government. I didn’t pick up a paper or watch community meetings much less talk politics.

That time abstaining from being part of our community discourse led to one stark realization. If you don’t show up and engage in that conversation, nothing changes.

With election season underway, now’s the perfect time to start speaking up. It’s time to talk with and listen to other people about the future of our community in Fayetteville and Lincoln County.

To help all of us step into that conversation, here’s a few things to keep in mind.

Be human.

Show kindness, respect, and civility to everyone that you talk to. Don’t automatically assume their viewpoint or intentions. Community discourse requires thoughtful, open, and civilized debate. That happens best when we’re human to each other. Speak persuasively, not abrasively.

Focus on the issues.

How we spend taxpayer dollars in the budget is much more important than what outfit you saw an elected official / candidate wearing. Even if you don’t particularly like a certain community leader, you can still work with them to find answers to the issues and problems facing our town.

Check and verify what you hear.

Our elected officials and candidates want to talk with you. Use that opportunity to find the truth rather than passing on what your cousin’s brother’s friend overheard in the grocery store or what you saw being shared around on Facebook.

Not sure where to start when verifying a piece of information? Check with the person it’s about. If you hear something that you’re not sure is true about the mayor, call their office. If you hear something that doesn’t sound right about the sewer, call your commissioner. Our elected officials work for us and part of their job is answering our questions.

Don’t give up on the conversation.

Talking about some issues can be difficult. It can be messy. But stick through the awkwardness and difficulty to reach the other side.

Side note on this one – that doesn’t mean continue the conversation if the other person is verbally abusive, insulting, or intentionally offensive. If they’re not interested in a productive conversation, it’s fine to walk away.

Go vote.

Conversations are great but they’re step one in moving our community forward. Step two is to register to vote and to make sure all of your family, friends, co-workers, and everyone else you know is registered. GoVoteTN is a great website where you can check to see if you’re registered.

After you’re registered, make sure to vote! In the elections this fall, we’re picking people to fill everything from them mayors’ offices to commissioners to alderman to the school board and more. Those elected seats are four-year terms so the people we choose will lead our community for the next four years.

Voting is quick, it’s easy, and it’s important. Every vote matters, especially in local elections that are won in the double-digit vote margins.

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