Political Fight Club

Political Fight Club

Adrienne BoettingerMonday,1 August 2016

Fighting makes me feel icky. When people disagree, part of me wants to curl up into the fetal position and pretend it isn’t happening. That’s the part that just wishes everyone would get along. But everyone doesn’t get along. Pretending there aren’t differing opinions on significant issues that impact our daily lives is not just ridiculous, it’s dangerous. Fighting and talking about stuff that matters—even when it’s hella awkward—is vital.

I recently went to dinner with my sister and one of our brothers and his wife and son. We ended up having a lovely evening but early on, I tried to say something about the Republican National Convention – I was actually trying to say something positive about Paul Ryan’s speech or how poised Ivanka was—and my sister shut me down. I think she was afraid I was going to go for the jugular but I wasn’t. This particular brother and I have differing political views but he’s someone with whom I can have a rational and respectful conversation. In my own weirdsmobile way I was offering a conversational olive branch so we could talk about something besides the weather (like walking around in a sweaty bowl of soup) or sports (the Orioles are awesome and comprise the bulk of my pretend boyfriends, category: athletic).

I’m tired of seeing people trying to declare moratoriums on social media discussion about the election or Congress or other political, socio-economic issues. Politics is crucial; discussions about the issues shape the way we think and the way we vote. This has very real and lasting repercussions for years, even decades, in every facet of our lives.

That said I understand why many people are averse. Because they’ve only seen political discussions ending in hurt feelings, shunning, and worse. People have a hard time disagreeing on an issue without tying their passionate feelings about that issue to the person on the other end of the spectrum. Put into simpler terms, we start thinking our position is the only right one and the reason the other person doesn’t agree is that he or she is stupid or evil. These types of discussions aren’t productive; no wonder a lot of people just try to stay away from talk where they’re afraid of being called stupid or calling someone else stupid.

Us humans have a terrible habit of seeking out opinions and even “evidence” that only supports our own opinions. The more liberal or conservative pages we “like” the more of those types we see. We love hearing our opinions echoed by others—particularly when those people are powerful or famous. It makes us think we’re right and the people on the other end of the spectrum are wrong.

That’s just plain weak. It won’t make our arguments better; it will actually make them worse. It won’t make our opinions more valid; it’ll just mean we’re closing ourselves off to other possibilities, other ideas, and chances to grow. And really society deserves better. If not for ourselves and our contemporaries, then for the generations that will come after.

But for God’s sake, try for a little damn civility (what some call ‘political correctness’ and others call ‘not being an asshat’). DON’T SHOUT YOUR POSITIONS, repeat yourself ad nauseum to the point where other people are literally trying not to vomit in their own mouths when they hear the poisonous venom you spew, or attack the person instead of the idea she or he is presenting. Start small: try to actually listen to another person’s point of view at least once a day. But you have to really listen, not just pause while you think of your next response. Who knows – you may even like it.

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Image Credit: The fixed factor on Flickr



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