Stuttering and Politics

So yesterday in the States they had the midterm elections. Since I live here in Saudi, the results don’t really change much for my day-to-day life. And since I’m not sure when we’re moving back …

What I wanted to talk about today is politics. I’m not here to discuss my specific views on various subjects, but rather how I came to have them — or not.

The thing about politics is that it always boils down to discussing and arguing. An oral exercise. You can have an opinion on something, and if you want to let you friends know, you have to state the position, then articulate something clear and meaningful to support it. You have to listen to their arguments and refute them. You have to understand where they’re coming from, probe them, challenge them, and then maybe agree to disagree.

That’s a lot of … talking.

Can you do it by e-mails or texts? Sure. Just read through the comments section on any political news story and let me know how convincing that strategy is.

I’ve not been able to see this any other way. And even if I could articulate something slowly and somewhat clearly to a friend the first time, it doesn’t mean I can do it all the time. It doesn’t mean that I’ll have the same confidence, either.

Because of all this, I’ve never really been that political. There’s a lot of criticism out there that people don’t “care” about politics, that they may not vote or get engaged. But could it just be a communication issue? Oftentimes we see that the winners are the ones spending the most money or yelling the loudest.

I think back in college and possibly earlier, I saw debating as something I would never be able to do. I thought that if I stuttered, the other person would see this as a weakness and walk all over me and my words.

So what can we do? What can someone who stutters do if they’re interested in politics? In debate? In getting up in front of a large group and arguing that their school policy be changed, or that they’d be a decent candidate for office?

A person who stutters would first have to get past the fact that their stutter alone won’t lose them the debate. Once past this, I’d reason that an insane amount of reading and preparation would help. And just being calm during a debate. I’d imagine that even the process of debate preparation would help — speaking out loud, trying various phrases and angles over and over again. Building confidence.

The thing about being over prepared is that it tells the other party (as well as the audience) that wow, this person’s content is spot-on. They really know their stuff. It puts the spotlight on material instead of how that material is coming out of your mouth.

I’ve never done Toastmasters (I’m not against trying it now) nor did I do anything debate-wise in school growing up. But now that I think about it, it probably would have helped. Maybe not enter a life of politics per se, but at least get me out of my comfort zone and get me thinking and talking about different topics.

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