I read a blog by one of my favorite comedians today that made me think. Now, this comedian’s blogs are usually funny—at least quaint and sometimes uproarious—but this one was different. He was complaining about the discussion of politics. He related a story of how he was enjoying quality family time at the dinner table where everyone was catching up on their lives and celebrating accomplishments and commiserating on disappointments and he was having the best time. Then, someone brought up politics and all hell broke loose.
We can all imagine a scene in our lives where relatives with differing viewpoints argue passionately about the issues of the day. No one wants to give ground, no one wants to admit wrong, and no one wants to lose. Voices are raised, fingers are pointed, arms are waving for emphasis, and someone may even use foul words. In many cases, the argument may even depart from the subject of politics and enter the personal realm where insults—and sometimes fists—fly.
The blogger went on to suggest that no one should discuss politics at all. His point being that nothing good can come from it. Nothing will change. You cannot convince people, you cannot affect change, and you can’t make a difference by discussing politics. The only things that happen are that feelings are hurt, wounds are opened, and relationships are damaged.
I won’t debate the points he makes; too many people allow politics so much importance in their lives that they cannot help but get their feelings hurt or hurt others. But I cannot agree with him either. Discussion of issues facing our country is the responsibility of the people of this country. We MUST discuss politics. We can do no greater wrong to our nation than to ignore the topic out of fear of offending someone. If we fail to debate the issues, then how will we know how to think about them? How will we know how to vote on them? Without debate, we are left to trust in the politicians and the media to make our decisions for us. That, my friends, is exactly what we cannot do—what we must not do.
At my job, we have an HR policy that forbids discussing politics, religion or sexual issues. In a corporate setting, this limitation makes sense, since the purpose of being there is to work, to be productive; one cannot be productive if one is busy throttling a coworker for their stance on gay rights.
The dinner table may not be the best place for these discussions either. People have been known to get sick from stress over a heated argument. No need to see the split pea soup again so soon, I’d say. Besides, the dinner table should be reserved for family time, with a focus on getting closer and building bonds. Not destroying them.
But to completely avoid the topic entirely is unacceptable. Discuss what happens in Washington. Discuss what happens at the city council. Discuss the candidates’ views. Debate them. Learn about them. Form opinions and defend those opinions. Nothing fortifies a viewpoint like having to defend it to the opposition. If you cannot defend it, maybe you need to rethink it. And THAT, my friends, is where the power of discussion lies. Never be afraid to talk about your views. Never let anyone dissuade you from expressing them. Be ready to defend them. Be mindful that others will attack them as if you were the Nazis at Normandy beach.
Just be mindful about where you do this. No discussion is worth a good job (a bad job is another matter). Keep your opinions to yourself where politeness dictates. Your customers don’t need to hear them. Your boss doesn’t need to hear them. And few people want to hear them while they are eating. But once the table is cleared, let ’em rip.
I know some people, this comedian for example, do not like politics. They whole topic is painful to even consider. Some people even shun the news to avoid hearing about what is happening in the political realm. Well, burying one’s head in the sand won’t ensure that the right thing gets done in Washington. People of conscience must keep communication open to know what’s happening and to affect some change when needed. Like now. Discuss the issues, and Vote in November.