It is my considered opinion that there is nothing to be gained by talking about politics.
If you talk about politics with someone who agrees with you, all you’ve done is reinforced each other’s opinions. (And if all you’re doing is talking, well then, what good ever came out of that?)
If you have the misfortune of talking about politics with someone who disagrees with you, there isn’t much space for anything other than irritation at best, or a ruptured relationship at worst.
My personal way of handling this is to remind people that I only discuss pre-Industrial politics. This can be a fun way of making friends, because it quickly surfaces those who are interested in history. Those who don’t want to talk about the politics of the Dark Ages can simply tap out, and we can talk about something else.
I have been in many situations in which someone attempted to engage me in a political discussion against my will. Let me state quite clearly for the record that I do not owe anyone a debate on any topic at any time. Nobody is entitled to my opinion.
I don’t have to tell people a single thing, not what color is my underwear or what I’d do if I won a million dollars or whether I prefer crunchy or creamy peanut butter. All of those things are my business, and so are my politics.
As a corollary of this, I prefer not to know other people’s political beliefs at all.
What I found after I quit Facebook was that it is easy to avoid finding out about other people’s politics. All it takes is to meet face to face and organize around a hobby or interest.
While I’m pretty sure that my friends in Toastmasters, at the martial arts gym, and at work fall evenly across the spectrum, I can’t be sure about any one particular person. I love this. I’m on hugging basis (or used to be, she said darkly) with a lot of people who would undoubtedly back away with a disgusted look on their faces if we accidentally disclosed where our ideologies fell.
Which ones? No idea, and I like it that way.
Politics have always been ugly in these United States. John Adams and Thomas Jefferson quit speaking to one another for over a decade. Preston Brooks nearly beat Charles Sumner to death on the floor of the Senate. Mud slinging is actually one of the less objectionable aspects of our shared history. We’ve always been dirty, haven’t we?
There are issues that we face today that arose before we even became a nation, and they have never been resolved, such as exactly how powers should be distributed between the states and the federal government. There is no single right answer. We hate ambiguity, though, and we’ll continue to never figure it out until the end of time.
Something that is different here than in other countries is that we are suspicious of each other. We have a distaste for each other. We dislike each other’s company. We’re quick to believe in each other’s idiocy, insanity, hypocrisy, or double standards.
This makes me unutterably sad. If I could change one thing, this would be it.
The only way we can ever make anything different happen is if we find more ways to spend time together in a companionable, neighborly way that is not polarized or politicized.
I was talking about this with family the other day. I am fortunate not to know the politics of the majority of my extended family, and please, if you’re reading this, let’s keep it this way? I was sharing why I quit social media, which was because every time I logged in, I would see a flame war erupt between people over the dumbest and most innocuous topics. Sports. Video games. What phone operating system was best. Fonts. I happen to like Comic Sans, and what are you going to do about it? Next you’re going to tell me your feelings about pineapple on pizza, or cilantro, and then we just can’t have a potluck together anymore.
What is the ever-loving point?
The point I was making with my family was that we all came from a time, even though we are of different generations, when most people had tons of stuff in common. We all watched the same few shows at the same time. We all listened to Top 40 on the radio. We all saw the same movies the same week, when they appeared on network TV, because there were only three channels. It was possible to have a casual conversation with anyone, because we had thousands of points of reference in common.
It was boring and hokey, but it was what we had, and it worked.
It’s not true anymore. What we’ve gained with the abundance of options that were created, first by cable television and then by the internet and then by smartphones, what we’ve gained in options we have lost in shared references and common ground.
Remember how emotional it was to see all the Italians singing off their balconies in the early days of the COVID lockdown? What made me cry about that was that I couldn’t think of any songs all my neighbors were likely to know.
I would have leaned out and sung “Don’t Stop Believing,” except that my singing is abysmal. The only thing my neighbors would all have in common was their desire to get me to stop.
This is an incredible country. What I love about being an American is our optimism, our inventiveness, our never-say-die commitment to innovation, our crazy food. I also love our rich and strange history, the remarkable project of representative democracy that shocked the world and changed everything for everyone.
What I see before us is... a new Space Age. I think the problems that are terrifying and disgusting us all today will be merely a footnote in advanced history books a century from now. I think even five years from now we’ll have moved on. I think it would be good for all of us to start looking forward and imagining solutions, creating a world that we all want to live in together. Let’s talk about what we do want, not what we don’t want - and if you want to talk about politics (with... me??), think again. Those conversations are completely predictable at this point. Let’s make up something new.
I've been working with chronic disorganization, squalor, and hoarding for over 20 years. I'm also a marathon runner who was diagnosed with fibromyalgia and thyroid disease 17 years ago.
This website uses marketing and tracking technologies. Opting out of this will opt you out of all cookies, except for those needed to run the website. Note that some products may not work as well without tracking cookies.Opt Out of Cookies