Who Cares About Polite Conversation? Why We ARE Talking About Politics with Friends and Family
posted on October 22, 2020 | by Heather Bien
Politics is about more than politics these days. It’s more than some abstract Capitol Hill mystery that does nothing more than dictating the ads you see every four years. It’s the driving force that will decide the future of our country starting on the morning of November 4. And we need to talk about it.
I’ll never forget leading up to the 2016 election season. On my way to a first (and last) date, the news dropped that a top candidate had dropped out of the Republican primary race. We were getting terrifyingly close to what would become a Trump candidacy. And, when I brought it up shortly after sitting down, my date said, “I don’t talk about politics on dates.” Excuse me? If you can’t talk about something that is affecting all of our daily lives, what can you talk about?
That’s why I’m advocating for tossing out the idea of polite conversation and politics as mutually exclusive.
We are living during a time when politics isn’t something you can turn a blind eye to. What happens in Washington impacts your rights. It impacts your health. It impacts your finances. It impacts your livelihood. To say, “I don’t care about politics” is no longer an option (not that we believe it ever was) and to write off a friend’s problematic viewpoints with, “we just don’t talk about politics when we’re together” is to rationalize someone who is showing their true colors, simply because those colors may not affect you. And you know what’s really not polite? Continuing to be friends with those who sow hate or support extremist and dangerous views –– just because it wasn’t polite to find out where they actually stand.
This isn’t to say you can’t have friends on both sides of the aisle. I live in Washington, DC. I have friends (and a husband) who’ve been and are Republican staffers. I have friends who’ve been and are Democratic staffers. I have friends who’ve worked for advocacy organizations across the spectrum. But we talk about it. I know why they stand for the issues that matter to them. I know that they’ve carefully considered their vote [hopefully for Biden] and how it impacts life post-2020. I know, because we talk about it at length, that, at the end of the day, what we all hope for is a better country that provides an opportunity for all those who want it.
Plus, when we don’t talk about the issues with those that are close with us, our loved ones may fill in the blanks with what they hear from talking heads –– and those talking heads could be on CNN or they could be on Fox News. Look, we know family’s family and sometimes the best you can do is make your point heard and, maybe, even if they don’t admit, they hear you and they realize there’s another perspective.
With friends, however, we don’t always have to agree, but we do have to consider who we choose to align ourselves with and whether their beliefs and their vote reflects being a good and decent person. And the more we talk about it, mull it over, debate it, the more we can all arrive at a place where we have respect for one another and maybe even find a place where, one day (like, 2021, please?!) where we can compromise and find a place of unity in the middle. So let’s start talking.