Thursday, November 16, 2006
Donkey vs. Elephant - Taboo??
You may have noticed that I steer clear of politics and religion on this site. I'm not sure that's the most honest approach to blogging, but hey, I'm not your dancing circus bear. At least I'm raising the bar a tad from our last donkey discussion!
However, the political divide this nation experienced was troubling. And now that the "people have spoken" and voted for change (notice I said, CHANGE, not DEMOCRATS), I'm more optimistic than I've been in a while. Not that I think either party has all the answers. Instead, my faith in the American people has received a boost. We DO have the gumption to get up off our couches and try to change the direction of the country. I was beginning to wonder if we had all been hypnotized by the fancy footwork of Emmitt Smith, and were generally oblivious to the actions of our government.
In college and graduate school, I was taught that there are two topics to avoid discussing in the workplace: religion and politics. In a small town, where our businesses are more like families (crazy and dysfunctional), those rules don't necessarily apply. Or should they? Two of my agents professed their Christianity during the interview process. Oftentimes, a discussion amongst my staff will pit Republican against Democrat, though never to the point of a screaming match. The participants act with dignity and usually "agree to disagree." For the most part, we know where we all stand, who we can talk to about certain issues, and whose toes not to step on. It's an atmosphere of mutual respect.
Unfortunately, something happened at my husband's workplace that could affect his employment. Don't worry, he's not going to be fired. But he is deciding to "opt out" of working on days that a staunchly Republican doctor performs surgery. He had made this request long ago, and yesterday, under great pressure from his manager due to understaffing, broke his own rule and bit the bullet for the good of the hospital. Said doctor has argued with Roger in the past about political issues, and Roger no longer wishes to entertain those discussions.
Our hospital has a new security system in the OR. It involves locked doors that can only be opened by staffers with their ID passes. As Roger was navigating the system to take a patient through these doors, he commented to the patient, "This place has more security than Fort Knox! But that's good, because then no one can come in here and 'get ya.'" Just a little joking demeanor that he uses to put his patients at ease before their procedures. Republican Doctor, far removed from the area, shouted out, "Yeah - that's what we need here to keep the Democrats out!!" Not in a joking manner. In an inflammatory manner. He was decidedly vindictive. Mean-spirited.
If you know my husband, you probably are curious as to what happened next. As he told me this story, I envisioned three possible scenarios:
1. Roger delivering his patient, then going back to Republican Doctor and "giving him the what-for." (This would have been an ugly confrontation, at best.)
2. Roger delivering his patient, then telling the manager, "That's it - I'm out of here," and leaving for the day, refusing ever to work on Republican Doctor days.
3. Roger delivering his patient and holding his tongue.
I am proud to say that he took the high road - choice #3. But at what cost? Should he have to endure verbal jabs? Roger's father is a STAUNCH Democrat, and in a way, the vileness of Republican Doctor's comment was an insult to his family. Allowable, because of the "status" of the one making the comment??
For the record, the definition of "conservative," according to the online dictionary, is "disposed to preserve existing conditions, institutions, etc., or to restore traditional ones, and to limit change." The definition of liberal? According to the same site, "favorable to progress or reform, as in political or religious affairs." I have no idea how the term "liberal" became tarnished with such negativity.
So, I ask you for your thoughts. Is it better to keep our mouths shut? Should managers set boundaries for what can be discussed in the workplace? Or is this another form of discrimination that serves to limit free speech? I solicit your discussion, though I request civility among participants.