The give and take necessary for discussing controversial subjects in a reasonable way is a learned skill. I'm the first to admit that am not as good at it as I would like to be. My own failure of articulation aside though, I don't want to rush to judgement about complex issues without being able to research and think them over carefully first. The philosopher Jaques Ellul stresses caution in rendering our convictions:
The propagandist can mobilize man for action that is not in accord with his previous convictions. Modern psychologists are well aware that there is not necessarily any continuity between conviction and action, and no intrinsic rationality in opinions or acts. Into these gaps in continuity propaganda inserts its lever. It does not seek to create wise or reasonable men but proselytes and militants.
I have written before that being quick to anger makes you vulnerable to propaganda, which is why you should try to be cautious with your thought process. But in doing so, you are likely to leave yourself open to being misunderstood. In fact, these 5 seemingly reasonable behaviors of political freethinkers and independents might really piss people off:
1. You Try Not to Rush to Judgement
“Actual thinking requires deep and protracted exposure to the subject matter — through close reading, for example, or observation. It entails collecting, examining, and evaluating evidence, and then questioning assumptions, making connections, formulating hypotheses, and testing them. It culminates in clear, concise, detailed, and well-reasoned arguments that go beyond theory to practical application.”
Research on a given issue should happen before trying to render an opinion. The reason for being careful in your thought process is that there is often much that you don't know, many antecedent causes, and persuasive arguments on both sides of an issue. Being reasonable means that you may even change your mind after incorporating new information. Cautious thinking also involves the recognition that there are limits to sources of information. In Aristotle's Metaphysics, he asserts:
"It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it."
2. You Are a Realist
John Locke, writing in 1689 states: "Being all equal and independent, no one ought to harm another in his life, health, liberty, or possessions."  Where I'm going here is that unless a situation involves someone being killed, beaten, robbed, raped, imprisoned without trial, etc. - then, no, I'm not necessarily outraged.
Any kind of public policy issue essentially boils down to a perverse utilitarianism. Those in power will do what is politically expedient in the name of the "greater good." For better or worse, public policy is usually a matter of give and take, or balancing one group's rights with those of another.
Now is this state of affairs ideal? No. But it's the reality of life in mass society. Real democracy - where issues are discussed in an egalitarian way, where everyone's rights are clearly taken into account and everyone has their say - is not possible in mass societies. Democracy in mass society is mob rule. Real democracy is only possible in small groups and local communities. But that is not what we have.
Being a realist means acknowledging that things could usually be much worse. In the absence of Locke's criteria - someone being killed, beaten, robbed, raped, or imprisoned without trial, we should carefully consider all angles before forming an opinion or getting angry about public policy. Often there are no ideal solutions to political problems.
3. You See Activism as Paradoxical
Of things that exist, some are in our power and some are not in our power. Those that are in our power are conception, choice, desire, aversion, and in a word, those things that are our own doing. Those that are not under our control are the body, property or possessions, reputation, positions of authority, and in a word, such things that are not our own doing.
The Stoic perspective is to wish other people well, but also to realize that you don't have any control over what happens in other parts of the country or on the other side of the world. You can protest, petition your representative, and so on, but you should exercise discretion in action, realizing that if you choose to act socially or politically, you have no control over the results. Being angry and unhinged may actually make things worse.
Anyone who wishes to avoid rushing to judgement or becoming angry over politics must use mindfulness, or prosoche, in every decision about politics and social involvement. Prosoche is how you render proper judgement needed to maintain eudaimonia. What good can you accomplish in the world if you loose your composure or become angry with people around you?
4. You're More Worried About Governing Yourself Than Government
Of course you should be concerned about the well-being of other people. But rather than stressing over politics you might be better off donating to charity or volunteering your time in order to make and impact. Getting angry over injustice, even when it is warranted, is like grasping a hot coal - you are just burning yourself and those around on account of something you don't control.
On the other hand, if everyone paid attention to what they can actually control and tried to keep a peaceful internal disposition, it would actually change the world. The revolution inside might produce a social revolution as a consequence.
Trying to change yourself rather than the order of the world might not be a popular position. After all it is easier to point fingers at others and maintain a sense of moral superiority than it is to tackle your own character flaws. But being introspective is powerful - this perspective pops in philosophy, religion, psychology, and self-help literature. Descartes 3rd Maxim is in this same vein: "Conquer yourself, rather than the world."
5. You Are Independent and Non-Partisan
Parties channel free-floating opinion into existing formulas, polarizing it on opposites that do not necessarily correspond to the original tenets of such opinion. Because parties are so rigid, because they deal with only a part of any question, and because they are purely politically motivated, they distort public opinion and prevent it from forming naturally. 
The economist Jeffery Tucker has a similarly low opinion of choosing sides politically. He writes:
"By maintaining your objectivity and principles in these times, you will be in the minority...It is not easy in a hugely partisan political environment...Stay independent, think clearly, watch carefully, adhere to principle, speak fearlessly, praise when good things happen and oppose when bad things happen, tell the truth as you see it, and otherwise be ever vigilant in defense of rights and liberties, yours and everyone's. 'At all times sincere friends of freedom have been rare,” says Lord Acton, “and its triumphs have been due to minorities'.”
So, yes, in these tumultuous times, by attempting to be as realistic, careful, introspective and non-partisan as you can, you definitely risk angering a person or two. But you will be a friend to reason, to caution, to freedom of thought.
1. Ellul, J. 1973. Propaganda. The Formation of Men’s Attitudes. New York: Vintage Books.
2. Aristotle. (1999) Metaphysics. New York: Penguin.
3. Locke, J. (1689). Second Treatise on Civil Government. http://www.constitution.org/jl/2ndtr02.htm
4. Epictetus. (1995) Discourses. Everyman Paperbacks.
5. Ellul, J. 1973. Propaganda. The Formation of Men’s Attitudes. New York: Vintage Books. 176.
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