I Like You, But I Hate Your Politics

It’s Deep-Fried Friday, and my crunchy/juicy topic is politics! Am I crazy or what? Wait, read on.

News programs are already abuzz with constant discussion about the next President of the United States. From now until next November, presidential candidates, political pundits, media outlets, blogs, co-workers, friends, and neighbors will be discussing Election 2012.

I am blessed to live in a country where we can elect our leaders and speak freely about our political opinions, regardless of how astute or loony they might be. However, I recently threw up a post on my personal Facebook page with what I thought was a rather tame political comment, and a flurry of comments ensued. After things turned too sharp-tongued for my taste, I deleted my post and ceased the conversation.

What I realized is that I love my family and friends too much to start arguments over politics. I know people left of center, right of center, smack-dab in the middle, and so far left or right that the mere sight of each other might cause a fist fight.

The reality is that most of us care about our country, our families, and our communities. We want the best for all of them. We work hard, pay our taxes, give to charity and/or volunteer, and try to raise good kids with values. We happen to have a wide variety of ideas for the role of government in all of that.

It’s wise to avoid stereotypes, name-calling, and yelling if you decide to discuss politics with a family or friend. Before you even start that conversation, ask what you’re trying to achieve. Do you merely want them to understand your position? Are you trying to persuade them? What is the likelihood of being able to make headway or find areas of consensus with this person? Is it worth it?

Three more things to remember as we edge closer and closer to choosing our next president and other leaders of our nation, states, and local governments:

Start making a difference where you are. Since we all want the good of our nation and society (however we think we can achieve it), we can start where we are. Volunteer at your local school, a charity, or even a political campaign, if you are moved in that direction. Consider giving money to a charity that represents your priorities –whether an animal rights organization, a cancer research fund, or a military family assistance project. Check out Amber West’s #gowithoutcampaign.

If you know of someone in need, cook them a meal, lend an ear, or slip them a few bucks. Be sure to cast your vote whenever elections occur in your area, but go an extra step and do something tangible to make our country better by reaching out in your own area.

Remember that people are more than their politics. Unless your life is devoted to lobbying for a specific cause, you are likely engaged in plenty of other activities non-political. You take your kids to little league games or dance lessons, see the newest films or TV shows on the weekend, hobnob with co-workers at a restaurant after work, or head to the lake or beach.

Guess what? Those people sitting next to you, interacting with you, or acting on the screen for you do not all share your politics, and yet they are part of making life enjoyable. You really don’t know how each and every delightful person you come across voted in the last election. And you might be surprised if you discovered who voted for whom; it isn’t always what you predict.

Treat others with civility, respect, and kindness. The surest way to have a society none of us wants to live in? Start verbal and physical brawls with everyone around who differentiates from your brilliantly-composed viewpoint. The ends do not justify the means.

You may be right, but if you are a complete jerk about it, few people will be persuaded by you and many won’t want to hang out with you. Yes, it is possible to passionately state your views, and I’m in favor of that. I am talking here about descending into name-calling(e.g., “idiot”), applying negative adjectives at will to their intentions (e.g., “heartless”), or labeling (e.g., “Nazi”). It’s the principle I tell my kids often: Treat others they way you want to be treated. (Yes, that’s the “Golden Rule”!) Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, also says it well with the habit of “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”

This gets us nowhere.

By all means, slap a bumper sticker and a sign in your yard touting your favorite candidate. Call into a talk show and give your two cents. Write your congressman and let them know what you think about this bill or that one.

But if you want to have a lovely Thanksgiving, I suggest sticking to the topics of fond family reminiscing, cute things your kids are doing, Black Friday shopping, and sports. Then again, if you live in Texas where I am and have fans of Texas A&M and the University of Texas present, you might end up with an even bigger brawl on your hands.

So what do you think is the secret to keeping good relationships with people whose politics make you want to scream? Have you ever had a bad experience with family and friends when you discuss elections or policies? How do you handle it?

By the way, I’m happy to support the campaign of Piper Bayard-Kristen Lamb for Election 2012. These authors got it goin’ on.

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14 thoughts on “I Like You, But I Hate Your Politics

  1. Great post, Julie. And very timely. You make some very good points and have some great advice.My husband and I respect each other enough to agree to disagree and we don't discuss politics or religion. It's much more peaceful that way.

  2. Thanks, PJ. It's especially hard when you're MARRIED to someone you vehemently disagree with. But I love that you used the word "respect." So great that y'all have figured out how to keep peace.

  3. Great post–this has been cropping up more and more the past few weeks! I agree totally–never assume anything about the people you're with! I've felt awkward so many times as people assumed I had one political bent and included me in their railing on the side I actually tended to agree with. Politics isn't important enough to damage relationships over, in my opinion 🙂

  4. Yes, Julie, I don't get into discussions about politics or religion because I don't want to try and sway someone to my side and some people get adamant about doing just that. I live in a country where you can state your opinion openly (thank goodness) and we can agree to disagree or not talk about it at all!Patti

  5. Great post, Julie. Respect is so necessary. I'm always amazed at how all of the wonderful, self-proclaimed pacifists who surround me in my part of the world can become so vehemently hostile during an election. My daughter was in 5th grade during the McCain/Obama race. She actually had lifelong "friends" verbally abuse her throughout the election because of the candidate she supported. Yes. Age 11 and younger. So the respect isn't just important for adult society. It's because that is what our children learn from us. Or don't. It certainly doesn't help when politicians, themselves, get up and say "I think ____ can just go to hell!" Classy.Thank you for your post, and thank you so much for your support of Piper-Lamb 2012. 🙂

  6. Julie–I agree wholeheartedly with what you've said here. I've seen people both on the left and the right walk into a room and start talking as though everyone shares their opinions. Usually, people just glaze over and let them rave and rant. However, if you get someone who wants to argue…it can get ugly. And I'm leaving. I do not enjoy participating in or listening to political debate. I know what I think. It is unlikely anybody is going to sway my thinking, and I don't want them to try. So I practice the golden rule: I don't try to sway anybody else's thinking. You know something though? People get abusive anytime you go against their core beliefs. I've had people call me un-American for not liking football. (I fail to understand what being American has to do with a game, but I digress.) I've had people become very insulting because I don't have children and practically interrogate me over the reasons.Anyway, point is this: I think *some* people feel threatened when other people aren't like them. If I say I don't like football, perhaps I'm saying their love of it is stupid. If I say I don't have children and won't be having children, perhaps it is a challenge to their decision to become a parent. And if I say what I think about X political candidate, perhaps I am implying that they are in some way stupid because they like X political candidate. Sorry that got long. Great topic. 😀

  7. Great post! I think the bottom line is that most of us really are striving for the same thing; safety, security, happiness…and there are lots of ways to define and achieve those things. We have to remember that we're all on the same page in the grand scheme of things! Love your points!

  8. Great post! I can get a little passionate, but I'd like to think I never insult. And really, I just like to stay out of most of it. I'm considering cutting off my ties to the internet for the election season, I'm not sure I can handle the facebook status hullabaloo. *sigh*I've not been on Twitter for an election yet, is it more civilized?

  9. Great post, Julie. IMO the key is respect. Husband and I went out with some of my coworkers a few days ago, and ended up talking not only about politics, but religion too! And we all had a great time. Not because we all agreed with each other, but because we kept it respectful. OTOH, I have friends I can't discuss politics with because they can't do so without acting like I'm stupid for holding a different opinion.

  10. I have strong religious and political stances. However, I learned a long time ago never to discuss political, religion, or money in a public forum. As for these discussions within my home, we are careful to respect other's opinions. I always try to keep an open mind about other viewpoints. I believe the ability to empathize with others is a trait of fiction writers. What do you think?

  11. What a great post, Julie. My husband and I are on a completely different page with politics right now, and we've already had several arguments. I try to be tolerant, but he's determined to change my mind about stuff. I'm to the point where I don't want to discuss it. I can respect everyone's political views – no matter how radical they may be – as long as they respect mine.

  12. I love your perspective. I lead a Literature.Club for high schoolers. One of our favorite topics to discuss are worldview topics from different perspectives. Why? Be ause I want them to learn how to have an opposing. Jew with others AND speak and treat them with respect. I think the relationship has to trump ideas. We're working hard on his skill and in my opinion it is a skill to be learned. Otherwise we. E one either a people pleaser who wont challenge any ones ideas or a people basher who tramples others

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