Every week on Monday morning, the Council and invited guests weigh in at the Watcher’s Forum with short takes on a major issue of the day or other matters of interest. This week’s question: Do You Have Friends Or Family With Opposite Political Views, And Are You Able To Ever Discuss Politics With Them?
The Razor: Most of my friends and family are liberals. Very few are moderate, conservative or libertarian – and the vast majority haven’t been anything else, but whereas my political affiliations changed to match my life experience. What’s fascinating is that while they swear allegiance to the President and his party, the majority of them hold views that would be welcome at most Tea Party gatherings and even some fundamentalist Christian rallies. But they don’t realize that, choosing instead to believe what they are told to believe by the likes of Jon Stewart and Chris Matthews.
For example, I am much more comfortable around gay people than my brother-in-law, a 70 year old ex-Lutheran minister who got bested by my then 15 year old son in an argument about gun control and around whom we cannot discuss politics. This soft spoken man turns into a raging monster as soon as the topic arises, spouting leftist talking points that would embarrass Bill Maher. But when he’s calm he makes statements about minorities and gays that might have been okay back in the day but put my teeth on edge. It’s weird. He holds within himself conflicting social views, one set with which he argues in support of but apparently hasn’t internalized yet, and another that slips out when he’s not pontificating.
On Facebook my friends pass along bigoted and hateful screeds against conservatives, Republicans and anyone who doesn’t think the way they do. I’m not surprised. After all these were the people who back in the day had to dress the same way as their friends and listen to the same music in order to conform to being non-conformists. All are relatively wealthy, as white as the attendees of a Klan cross-burning, and view themselves as more intelligent and better than the rest of us “sheeple.” They might have a minority friend or two, but when they’re walking alone on the street at night and see a person wearing a hoody, they’ll duck into the local mini-mart until he passes.
Early on I tried connecting with them, but they aren’t interested in changing. Their minds are as closed as those they criticize, and are either unaware or don’t care that everyone in the world, or at least some of their old friends and relatives, experience the world in a different way and come to different opinions NOT because they’ve been brainwashed but because the ideas and opinions make sense. In all cases I reached out to them, and being an ex-liberal myself, tried to engage them on their own turf. But they attacked me as if by raising questions and offering alternative opinions I had physically assaulted them. It was at times vicious and painful, so I avoid having anything to do with them now.
So to answer the question, I don’t talk politics with them anymore. In fact, I don’t do much with them because thanks to the division this President has caused in our nation, we now live in two separate worlds. These worlds may be separate but they are far from equal. While I’ve never wanted to physically hurt my political opponents, that’s something I see my friends expressing more often these days. It’s sad to see shared history and common experience not matter for much and become so easily trumped by demagogues.
Simply Jews: I can’t give anything like a precise count for the friends who are way to the left or way to the right of me, still remaining my good friends, with all that this definition entails. Probably about half of my friends qualify as having political views totally alien to me.
The above was a simple part of the questionnaire. Whether I commonly talk politics with my friends: it depends on the nature of my friends, but there are a (very) few that are known to become overly aggressive if someone starts provoking them with political statements they can’t abide. Usually, in case when one of those is present the discussion doesn’t go much beyond a (relatively) harmless political joke of the week (day).
With all the other friends it goes more or less according to the following scenario (typical in Israel): after lunch / dinner / you name it, when the cigarette time comes for the smokers, a first political subject is tentatively thrown on the table. The thrower looks around for the person who seems to react most visibly to the statement, provoking him/her to respond and to develop the subject. After about 35 seconds, somebody interrupts the dialog with a clever remark, and from that moment on the “discussion” starts revving up seriously. Everyone present usually shouts at everyone else, the debate heats up quickly, to the level that will look to any innocent observer unfamiliar with the “normality” of Israeli way of debate like a prelude to a bloodbath… Pointed personal remarks are a normal ingredient of the proceedings in the more heated moments.
After a while, someone usually tables another subject, and gradually the previous scenario is repeated. All this continues till the food settles in everyone’s stomachs and people are able to go home. The heated discussion normally gets forgotten after a minute or two.
Thanks to our common sense, such “debates” are not being held via any means of recording (like online chats). Recording such debate could cause even best friendships to dissolve and may indeed end in some vendettas.
A good example of a politically polarized family… yeah, we rented for about two years an apartment with its living room looking at a living room of a highrise at a distance of about 20 m (say 70 feet). The apartment in question belonged to a nice pair of French Jews: the hubby Likudnik and the wife a Laborite (or vice versa, no matter). Immediately after the evening newscast on TV they picked a specific topic from it, arguing the point in Hebrew (albeit with a delicious French accent). The tone and the heat of the discussion rising very quickly, they usually switched to French after a few minutes. Not knowing French, we used to simply relax and enjoy the sounds of the language, one of the most expressive and musical in existence, in my opinion.
What can I say: after a while, we stopped watching the news… this was much better.
Liberty’s Spirit: Yes, we have a family member with a different political view. My younger son has grown into the family-generalized-liberal-iconoclast. This is ironic as there was a time in his life that he believed the Bible verbatim and the liberal perspective was completely anathema to him. Yes I know, there is always one nonconformist in every family and he even let us know that he is now in his rebellious period. While I am not pleased he has gone so far afield from a rational perspective of life, if his rebellion is merely characterized by being the family political thorn, it is still better than experimenting with illegal or dangerous drugs (there is a silver lining in every life event if you just look hard enough). At least there is still hope that he will come to his senses once he actually goes out into the real world and has to start paying his own way.
Taxation and where government puts your money becomes so much more personal when it is based upon your own labor instead of someone else’s, even if that someone else happens to be your parents. Meanwhile, after the latest knock-down-dragout between the siblings (with me adding in my two-cents and the hubby playing referee), where it was actually proven that there is really just a miniscule difference between many of our points of view, all political discussions have been completely banned by the hubby. In fact if a political topic is brought up, younger son reminds us all that politics is now verboten in the house. Next topic banned will probably be any and all discussions on the existence of God.
Neither of my sons cares much for the average adolescent interests of sports, clothes, movies or music. So dinner conversations lend themselves to things of major concern and substance, which then leads from discussion to argument to our own version of a government shutdown. Yes invariably I leave the dinner table with a headache.
JoshuaPundit: I have no problem discussing issues with anyone, although I rarely do in every day life unless it’s someone I know can handle it. And that’s rare to non-existent these days.
Having both friends and family with very opposite views to mine, I’ve yet to find any of them capable of having a decent give and take discussion of the issues. Either they’re not well informed at all, or they’re simply incapable of talking to anyone whom disagrees with them without resorting to invective or simply repeating the same Leftist catechism. I use that term advisedly because for many of them Leftism is a religion, and for me to criticize their religion makes me not merely wrong, but evil in their eyes.
So we have a tacit agreement that we simply don’t talk politics.
I have a theory anyway that many people on the Left don’t do debate well, but function best in an echo chamber or an arena where what they say isn’t easily questioned, like a college classroom or a media platform surrounded by the Faithful. That’s why Air America was such a miserable failure. The normal tactic is the old Alinksky trick of personalizing the target and demonizing them… but it can be dealt with by simply staying on point, not swallowing the bait, and simply turning the Alinsky trick right back on them with a smile… as Ted Cruz superbly demonstrates here with CNN’s ‘journalist’ Candy Crowley.
Bookworm Room: Living as I do in a majority Leftist outpost, almost everyone I know has opposite political views. I don’t label my ideology when I’m around them (“Hey, I’m a registered Republican!”), but I will politely put out facts that are not within their limited New York Times/MSNBC knowledge range. They are always shocked and struggle mightily to explain these facts. The funniest recent example was when I said that the deranged gal in Washington D.C. who was killed by the cops when she used her car as a battering ram was unarmed. Two people told me that she was still a poster child for gun control, because she could in theory have been armed. I thought this was funny until, the next day, the Washington Post made the same argument. Then I just got depressed.
Whether the discussions are entertaining or appalling depends on the person. Those who share the narcissism of the Left are impossible to talk to, because they turn instantly to personal attacks. Those who are just Dems because that’s what someone in our class (white collar, over-educated professional) does are easier to approach with actual data. It shakes them, but they don’t get rude.
The Glittering Eye: I have family who are both the hottest of red-hot Obama supporters and the most ardent imaginable Obama opponents. Completely opposite ends of the political spectrum. Fortunately, they’re rarely in the same room together.
I don’t have a problem discussing politics with them for several reasons. First, I’m better-informed on the issues. Second, my approach is always to search for common ground. Third, I am the soul of tact.
Well, there you have it.
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