Hold onto your hats
In the last 10 years, political ideology in the United States has become highly polarized. The right, center, and left seem to live on different planets. During this decade, the government has frequently ground to a halt. No one is interested in compromise. Republicans and Democrats alike are trenched into their positions. Each side is passionate about why they are right and the other side is wrong. The government has been on the brink of financial default several times. It hasn’t been a pretty picture. At times, it’s become downright ugly.
How do partisan politics affect you and I in our day-to-day lives?
On the positive side, the presidential campaign can prompt good friends to have lively debates about the important issues of the day. People like to talk about politics, the economy, and their hopes and dreams for the future. Good citizens want to understand each other and look for common ground. What are the important values and beliefs that Americans share?
While most adults choose friends who think along the same lines as they do, family members, co-workers, and acquaintances can be a different matter entirely. That’s where the dissension can begin. Beware of making snarky political remarks at the water cooler! Watch out for Henry who gives long speeches about Hillary in the hallway. Tina likes to make fun of Trumps’ “comb-over” in the lunchroom. Negotiating in the workplace after a presidential debate can be like walking through a minefield, just hoping that you don’t step on someone’s toes.
But the real challenge can arise when family members see the world through vastly different lenses. It’s easy to find yourself around the family table wishing you hadn’t said one word about politics.
Relatives are more likely to express their feelings openly, and sometimes more aggressively. They tend to be less polite than acquaintances or co-workers. They may be easily offended too. Uncle Bill just can’t understand how his nephew could believe that liberal tripe. Aunt Sarah gets angry when she hears her sister go on about Ted Cruz. Emotions can run high.
So what are some good strategies for keeping the peace?
- Keep your views to yourself. That’s my basic strategy. I don’t think I can convince anyone of anything when it comes to politics. I don’t believe that arguing with my next-door neighbor about affairs of state will improve the environment, the economy, or the world. I’m not sure that my approach is the healthiest for a democracy, which depends on dialogue and debate. But it works for me.
- Be respectful. As I grow older, what used to be sharply defined looks fuzzier. I was so smart when I was 21—with each advancing year I have become less sure of everything. No matter how strongly you believe in something, behave respectfully to your family or friends with opposing views. You won’t regret it.
- Seek to understand each other. With so much divisiveness in the body politic, character assassination has replaced a sincere desire to understand each other’s point-of-view. Family differences can create an opportunity to actually listen to opposing views.
It’s a refreshing attitude.